South Sudan’s Starving Children Turned to Beggars

Friday 26 January 2018

Blog by | Tito Justin | January, 2018

The only item that is in abundance is Ekamongo, small, bitter, wild green that are boiled, mashed and have to be mixed with oil and salt, - the only option for starving children in greater Kapoeta, South Sudan.

Do not be misled into thinking that those who remain  at home in South Sudan, those who haven’t fled the fighting, are living a normal life. Four million people have been uprooted from their homes, half of them having fled the country. But even for those who’ve stayed put, the ‘lucky’ ones residing in the peaceful areas, life is unimaginably tough.

 The full extend of this dawned on me as I recently travelled to remote parts of Lankien in Jonglei State. There’s currently no fighting in Lankien but insecurity around it is rampart. Civilians are confined to the town, surrounded, any day fearing possible attack. While driving just 10 Kilometres from town as part of Save the Children’s emergency health and nutrition response, you see clearly why we’re needed. Women and children were running by the roadside, having heard the car, begging for anything to eat. Humanitarian aid is their only lifeline, their only hope.

Places like Greater Equatoria, Aweil in Bahr el Ghazal and the Upper Nile region, which are generally peaceful, have suffered rocketing food prices, because it’s impossible to import or trade when surrounded by war, but also because of the drought. Whether suffering from drought or active conflict, extreme hunger is a major issue wherever you go.

 Most part of the country’s food basket - the Greater Equatoria region - can no longer provide food for its people, with little or no harvest possible last year.

 Concerned for the people struggling to survive in Kapoeta - the State he governs, currently experiencing crisis levels of hunger and one step away from famine - Luis Lobong Lojore said:

"There is no rain last year, it only rained once in August, very heavy rain that destroyed the few crops people cultivated. By March, people would have finished the little food they have – meaning this year (2018) is the worst. There is no food. We encourage people in the neighbouring Uganda and Kenya to bring food in exchange for animals

 Previously farmers could move from one place to the other in search for farmable lands and graze their animals, which is their lifeline. During dry season, others move to riverbanks to plant vegetables, which they sell to earn a living.

46-year-old Mayen Chol Mayen, a farmer and father of six lives in Abyei. Two years ago, Mayen could harvest more than 1000 kilograms of sorghum but last year, he was blocked from accessing his farmland and ended up with a stock of only 10% of his usual harvest. He couldn't feed his family of eight people for two months and he can’t even leave the area as he’s surrounded by fighting. This is happening all across the country.

 

1.52 million people are on the brink of famine

Adele* and her six year old son Namoni* says their main diet now are bitter nuts, which need long boiling, and leaves. Kapoeta North, Kapoeta County, South Sudan.

Many remote areas remain with little or no humanitarian support due to violent clashes between armed groups. Much of the population has been displaced multiple times, and food is scarce. Displaced and vulnerable families are facing extreme hunger and are struggling to find enough food to survive. Their main food sources are cereal called Sorghum and maize. Neither of these foods is nutritious enough to ward off malnutrition – especially for young children.

 Children breastfeed exclusively for six months before they start to eat other food supplements such as fruits juices. Mothers need to eat a balanced diet food and be able to access clean water good for their children to be healthy.

 

Those affected by the crisis say their only hope is the aid they receive from Humanitarians like Save the Children

Many mothers are widows and separated from their families during the war. Usually they’d feed their children with milk or meat from their herd of cattle, but having fled without their animals, they’ve no choice but to feed babies and toddlers with boiled sorghum and maize, which has no nutritional value and is dangerous when mixed with unclean water.

South Sudan urgently needs our help

For aid workers to operate and provide desperately needed help to the population in the country, they need safe access to the areas affected by conflict, and much more funding to continue operating in the face of huge and growing needs. 7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, including three quarters of all children (4.3 million).

If a political solution is not urgently found to stop the violence, the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan will continue to grow and a whole generation of children will face a the bleakest of futures.