From walking to running

In eight weeks, Adut recovered from severe malnutrition and was able to walk, six months later she is running

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
A girl smiling
15 April 2020


When we first met Adut she was fourteen-month-old, but not able to walk. She was so weak after weeks of not eating, caused by a malaria infection. She was quiet and somewhat indifferent to her surroundings. 


A girl is being measure with a MUAC
Adut at her first screening at Gabat nutrition centre in Aweil.


After eight weeks with ready-to-use therapeutic food and malaria treatment, Adut was discharged from the UNICEF supported nutrition programme. Her energy was back and she started walking on her own. She was still a bit shaky when we left her the last time, but now she is running around with her peers.


A girl is getting help to put on shoes
Adut is getting help from her older sister Lydia to put on shoes, making running easier.


Adut's father, William Deng, says his daughter is more opinionated than ever. "She is not happy being told what to do, such as simple chores,' William says chuckling. But he would take a pouting Adut over a sick Adut any day he says, remembering well how weak she was when she was admitted to the nutrition programme.



A girl standing in a door opening with a cup of water
Adut is fetching water inside the house. She is not always happy to do chores.


Adut is spending her days with her siblings and neighbors playing like most girls her age. UNICEF provided her with some games to stimulate her brain development since she was very sick for a longer period during the crucial 1000 days. The fundamental brain development is happening up until the child is two years of age, and if a child is malnourished for a longer period in this phase, it can cause stunted growth and brain damage.


a girl playing with puzzles
Adut is playing with some puzzles delivered by UNICEF after her recovery.


The only setback since Adut's recovery is that she is diagnosed as diabetic and will need insulin for the rest of her life. According to her father, this is an illness that runs in his family, therefore they are used to it.


A girl is being cleaned by an older girl
Adut's older sister Lydia is cleaning her after becoming rather sticky from eating a lollipop


Adut is eating well and her favorite is cassava and greens, but as most children she is also a huge fan of sweets. This is also one of the reasons why the number one medicine for malnutrition, ready-to-use therapeutic food, is sweet.


A girl and a lollipop
Adut enjoying a lollipop

In 2020, UNICEF expect 1.3 million children in South Sudan to suffer from acute malnutrition, close to 300,000 of them will be severely affected such as Adut. Over 1,100 UNICEF supported nutrition centres across South Sudan will handle most of these cases and more than 9/10 will most likely make it. That said, more needs to be done to prevent children from getting malnourished in the first place. Denying children their right to health is not only affecting children directly, it will also affect the future of South Sudan. After all, these children are the future.

UNICEF's nutrition programmes are generously supported by UK AID.