Responding to South Sudan’s Growing Hunger Crisis for Children: A Comprehensive Approach

In the midst of South Sudan’s deepening hunger crisis, essential nutrition services have emerged as a vital lifeline for children like Ocan and their families. Ocan’s story, like many others in this strife-torn region, underscores the profound impact of nutrition services on the survival and well-being of young lives.

Meet Abbo Elizabeth, a resilient mother of six, residing in Gumbo, a suburb on the outskirts of South Sudan’s capital, Juba. Her husband, Juma, is a soldier, supporting two families on a meager salary—a situation fraught with financial hardship.

Elizabeth’s tale is one of perseverance in the face of adversity. She narrates, “It has been a year, and my child still suffers from malnutrition due to the dire situation caused by poverty, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the hunger crisis.”

Tragically, Elizabeth lost two of her children to anemia just last year. She recalls, “My children succumbed to anemia. One of them was the twin brother of Ocan, who is now two years old but can barely walk due to poor health.”

Continuing her heartbreaking account, Elizabeth adds, “My child’s survival depends on plumpy nut and water. I have lost count of how many times he has relapsed from his condition. If we had sufficient food, things would be different.”

Fortunately, Ocan is one of the 424 children benefiting from Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), part of a generous Gift-in-Kind (GIK) program donated by World Vision Canada for the Juba Urban Project. This initiative aims to combat the hunger crisis and provide crucial aid to children in need.

The World Food Programme (WFP) plays a vital role in delivering therapeutic products, such as Ready-to-Use Supplementary Food (RUSF) for child treatment and corn-soy blend (CSB++) for pregnant and lactating women.

Komakech Ronald Mandela, World Vision’s Nutrition Manager, emphasizes, “The donated RUTF has supplemented the existing supply from UNICEF, significantly enhancing the recovery outcomes of children enrolled in the Out-Patient Therapeutic Program (OTP).”

World Vision has touched the lives of approximately 32,500 individuals, with over 8,000 of them being children. Elizabeth poignantly remarks, “As a mother, I can feel the pain that the children go through as they play together with empty stomachs.”

To make matters worse, Elizabeth’s family often survives on just one meal a day if her husband manages to bring home some money. Sleepless nights plagued by hunger are all too common. Elizabeth shares, “Two weeks ago, my son’s condition improved from severe to moderate acute malnutrition. The plumpy nut is doing great work in his body. He was able to play with his friends.”

Komakech further elaborates, “Having adequate stock in the nutrition centers improves the children’s response to treatment and recovery, minimizing defaulting from the program. From January to May 2021, 86% of the children discharged from OTP were cured, surpassing the 75% minimum SPHERE standards for cure rate.”

Nina Kon, a 19-year-old mother, echoes these sentiments, saying, “I have tried everything, but my son’s malnutrition persisted. I finally came to the nutrition center so he can be treated. I am confident he will recover soon, as I have heard mothers share positive results of the services.”

World Vision continues to appeal to all stakeholders and donors to join their efforts in the fight against malnutrition and the hunger crisis in South Sudan. Ocan’s story joins those of an estimated 1.4 million children under the age of five in South Sudan who are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition throughout 2021.

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