Malnutrition remains a threat to the survival of children in South Sudan

Conflict, insecurity and inflation are contributing to malnutrition in children in South Sudan.

By Mercy Kolok
Kaku is holding her two twin daughters at Al Sabah Children's Hospital in Juba, South Sudan
UNICEF/UN0272212/Campeanu

29 January 2019

Despite a favorable harvest in South Sudan 2018, food insecurity remains at alarming levels. An estimated 43 per cent of the population were forecast to be severely food insecure by the end of last year, with more than one million children acutely malnourished in 2018 including a quarter of a million children severely malnourished and at risk if they don’t receive humanitarian assistance.

Despite a recent peace agreement, years of conflict have devastated South Sudan’s economy. High inflation has made many basic food stuffs too expensive for many families, exacerbating malnutrition levels among children.

Above, twins Elizabeth Jungbo and Madelina Pedi aged one year four months are being admitted at Al Sabbah children’s hospital malnutrition for the third time in one year. The two sisters are battling severe malnutrition in a country where over one million children are acutely malnourished. 

  

A young child is measured for malnutrition
UNICEF/UN0272249/Campeanu

At the hospital, the children are diagnosed with marasmus, a form of malnutrition caused by lack of sufficient nutrients or lack of food. Many families in South Sudan cannot afford to eat even once a day because of the harsh economy and rising market prices.

  

Twins Elizabeth and Madelina, who suffer from malnutrition, are being fed by their mother and by a relative in the street.
UNICEF/UN0272253/Campeanu

“Sometimes we go hungry for even two days, on those days, we survive on water only, that is why they are always sick,” says Mary who survives by begging in the streets of Juba, the capitol of South Sudan. She lives in the street with her children.

  

Doctors from Al Sabah Children's Hospital are checking on Madelina Pedi, one year and four months old and a twin, who is being held by her mother, Kaku.
UNICEF/UN0272186/Campeanu

After a week of treatment, there was some improvement in the health of the twins. The girls could now eat without problems and were discharged to go home with medicines and ready-to-eat therapeutic peanut paste that would aid in their recovery.

  

Kaku is feeding her twins Madelina and Elizabeth at Al Sabah Children's Hospital in Juba, South Sudan
UNICEF/UN0272206/Campeanu

Their stay at home was, however, short-lived as the health of the children especially Madelina deteriorated. Their mother attributed it to lack of food. With support from UNICEF, the children were re-admitted at the hospital.

  

Kaku is feeding twin daughters Madelina and Elisabeth
UNICEF/UN0272221/Campeanu

“When I bring my children to the hospital, they get better because they receive medication, milk and food but I cannot afford to give them all that. I have no job. It is difficult for me to get a job especially because I have nowhere to leave my children,” says Mary.

  

Elizabeth, a one and four months old twin sister is being weighted at Al Sabah Children's Hospital in Juba
UNICEF/UN0272235/Campeanu

Two weeks of treatment saw an improvement in the health of the girls with Elizabeth fully recovering.

  

Kaku is dressing her twin daughters Madelina, who suffers from malnutrition
UNICEF/UN0272223/Campeanu

Madelina, though still be treated, could now sit on her own and even stand with support from the loving arms of her mother.

  

Kaku is taking care of her twin daughters Madelina and Elisabeth
UNICEF/UN0272241/Campeanu

The situation in South Sudan remains dire. Many families cannot cope given the stalled economy and can end up going for days without food. There are fortunate if they able to have one meal a day. 

  

Madelina Pedi, one year and four months old and a twin, who suffers from malnutrition, is getting a bath
UNICEF/UN0272168/Campeanu

The biggest burden is on children whose bodies cannot endure hunger, they become wasted, emaciated and severely malnourished. An estimated one million children in South Sudan are acutely malnourished.

  

Health workers are preparing milk for children suffering from malnutrition
UNICEF/UN0272222/Campeanu

With partners, UNICEF is providing life-saving treatment and supplies to severely malnourished children through the provision of medicines, therapeutic foods, such as enriched formula and the fortified peanut paste, as well as training of nutritionists and mothers on best feeding practices.

  

Elizabeth is eating nutrition suplement for malnutrition
UNICEF/UN0272247/Campeanu

A huge thanks goes to our donors who through their support we can save lives of children in South Sudan. In 2018, UNICEF treated over 200,000 children for severe acute malnutrition. This year UNICEF is appealing for USD 179 million to meet the immediate needs for children in South Sudan, including treatment of malnutrition.