Looming hunger, no health care – children at risk in Lafon, South Sudan

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Looming hunger, no health care – children at risk in Lafon, South Sudan

Blog by Emmanuel Kenyi

Lafon in South Sudan, an area known for its beautiful scenery and seasonal wildlife migration is experiencing the worst hunger.

In a recent assessment by Save the Children, Lafon has severe acute malnutrition rate of 2.9% well above the humanitarian threshold. Ravaged by insecurity and hunger, more than half of the population in the town remain displaced.

Last week, Save the Children loaded assorted Non Food Items (NFIs) in a UN World Food Programme Helicopter and a team of five visited the area to assess the situation.

Dozens of children gather at the foot of the hill as the NFIs are being offloaded, desperately in need of food. As it is now, many of the children in Lafon do not know where their next meal will come from.

Women spend most of their day wondering around the nearby bushes looking for whatever they could get to feed their children but everything has dried up except the neem lalop (trees that produce wild fruits which the people are currently feeding on).

The communities in Lafon were not able to harvest their crops due to the fighting that broke out in South Sudan's capital Jubathis year.

This is the beginning of the dry season here and for now until the next green harvest expected in July next year, it will be a critical time for the communities and children.

I meet with Susan at the Lafon local hospital she says, “We have no food to eat, my child has grown weak as he doesn’t get enough breast milk.”

 “I feed my child with wild fruits which are bitter and cause diarrhea in children,” she says.

Hospital looted

Like many other towns in South Sudan, Lafon witnessed violent fighting in July-August as the town exchange hands between government and opposition troops.  Mattresses, bedsheets, medicines and nutrition supplies were looted from Save the Children’s hospital.

This local hospital serves about 160,000 people at the County. Records from the nutrition department show that at least 30 severely malnourished children who could have been admitted at the stabilization center since the looting happened, that section cannot function fully. This is a life threatening situation for thousands of children whose lives depended on this hospital.

At the maternity ward is ruined, leaving women-in-labor with no access to antenatal or postnatal care.

As we leave Lafon, it is clear that things can only get worse in the next few months.

Save the Children in South Sudan is currently scaling its response to emergency nutrition needs among the conflict affected communities in Lopa-Lafon County in Eastern Equatorial State.