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Saving the Children in South Sudan

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Save the Children staff knew something was wrong. It was last November in Eastern Equatoria of South Sudan, just after the harvest, when it was less likely for families to need food assistance. Malnourished children were still being brought to Save the Children nutrition centers at an alarming rate, though.

 


Save the Children is treating severely malnourished infants at its nutrition centers in Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei, two states in South Sudan suffering from hunger emergencies. (Save the Children photo)

 

Crops had failed because of “low and erractic rainfall” according to the United Nations. Families were running out of their usual food supply and were starting to resort to using wild fruits to survive.

Fact-finding missions sent by the UN into parts of Eastern Equatoria confirmed the increasing levels of hunger. It could get much worse too. The upcoming “lean season” between harvests is generally when food supply is at its lowest.

At its Kapoeta nutrition center during January, Save the Children saw 114 infants with severe malnutrition and another 210 children with more moderate malnutrition. Severely malnourished children are given a nutritious peanut paste called Plumpy’nut.

Without the right nutrition infants can suffer lasting physical and mental damage or death. Having enough stock of a food like Plumpy’Nut is essential to humanitarian aid operations. For no long-term solution to ending hunger or building peace can be found with malnourished and stunted children.

Save the Children is also responding to another hunger emergency in South Sudan. Cattle raids in Jonglei, the largest state in South Sudan, have killed or displaced thousands of people who are in need of aid.

These cattle raids in Jonglei took place in Akobo County and are the latest in a series of internal conflicts within the state.

Save the Children is providing aid in Akobo East. This is an area that struggles with food security. Helen Mould of Save the Children points out that the internal conflict has escalated deadly malnutrition in this area. People fleeing violence in Akobo West head toward the east. Mould says, “Host communities are sharing food stocks, but this is adding pressure on an already stressed situation. As a coping mechanism it appears many children are eating just one meal a day and families are relying on wild fruits for their food.”

The effect of this violence drives communities deeper into hunger. Displaced farmers, for instance, will not be able to plant crops in 2013.

The humanitarian tragedy continues. There is such poverty in South Sudan so there is little resistance to shocks such as drought or even flooding. When you add the conflict, often over scarce resources, you add another dimension driving the hunger crisis. South Sudan desperately needs food and peace.

Save the Children has a crisis fund set up to save lives in South Sudan.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.