Mother risks everything to save the life of her malnourished son

Evading bandits and wild animals on the nine hours walk to a hospital

Gabriel Reec
Lady waling by a stream
28 January 2022

“If you are a mother, your bare hands must be the thermometer that detects changes in the body temperature of your child”, says Achol Aboor, the mother of one-year-old Mading Makur, “because you understand what a child cannot say.”

One morning, while caring for her son she found that he was unnaturally hot, and she realized he had a high fever. She took him to the nearby Mayath Primary Health Care Unit (PHCU), a local health centre. But his situation did not improve. The little boy developed diarrhoea and a cough over the course of the next two days.

Pagor, where Achol and Mading live, is plagued by fighting and insecurity. And lack of infrastructure restricts movement in and out of the area. But Achol knew that her son needed proper medical care in a hospital to survive.

After consulting with her husband, Achol began her long and dangerous journey. Her husband stayed home to look after their five other children and after the cattle. In Pagor there are a lot of cattle thieves. The family cannot afford to lose any of their cows. It is their only wealth and the family needs their milk to feed themselves.   

Achol Aboor had no fear of being killed or attacked by thieves along the way.  She knew she had to make the dangerous journey to save little Mading. She walked long hours and slept in the open when night fell. She was exhausted when she finally reached Cueibet County Hospital.

“I knew that I could be killed by thieves and bandits, but all I wanted to do was to save my son,” says Achol.

Mom wiyh child
Mading with his mother during admission to Rumbek State Hospital OTP.

Little Mading was attended to at the Cueibet Hospital. The nurses immediately referred him to the Rumbek State Hospital for further management because they did not have the capacity to provide the care Mading needed.

When one-year-old Mading was admitted to the UNICEF supported Rumbek State Hospital Stabilization Centre his mid-arm upper circumference (MUAC) measurement was 9.8 cm. He barely weighed 4.6kg. 

Mading was treated in the Rumbek State stabilization centre for almost a whole month.

When he was discharged from the stabilization centre his MUAC measurement was 11.1cm and his weight was 6.4kg. He was then referred to the Rumbek State Hospital Outpatient Treatment Program (OTP) to continue treatment till he was finally out of danger.

“You people are miracle makers. Mading could have died a long time ago if he had not reached the stabilization centre,” says Achol with a smile on her face, when her son was declared out of danger.

After being finally discharged from the Outpatient Treatment Program, Mading and his mother were able to return to their home in Pagor and join the family.

In 2021, approximately 1.4 million children are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition, the highest figure since 2013. Across South Sudan, over 1,100 UNICEF-supported nutrition centres provide therapeutic services to handle most of those cases. However, more needs had to be done to prevent children from getting malnourished in the first place.

Therefore, UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Health and partners to work on preventive programmes, coupled with treatment. UNICEF and partners are promoting exclusive breastfeeding of children up to six months and continued breastfeeding along with complementary foods, which will help to prevent malnutrition in the first place.

UNICEF nutrition programmes are generously supported by USAID, UK Aid, EU, ECHO, Germany through KfW Development Bank, and The People’s Republic of China.