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Breaking the vicious cycle of hunger

14 June 2023, Impact of Our Work

We know what it takes to stop the cycle of deadly hunger from coming back

The scarcity and soaring price of food is a persistent threat to the lives of children across the Horn of Africa. In a clinic run by Save the Children in South Sudan, health worker Elizabeth has seen a rapid rise in the number of children presenting with severe acute malnutrition. 

Fortunately, Elizabeth knows how to treat a child suffering from deadly hunger with a course of Plumpy Nut, a high-nutrient peanut paste, and if needed, antibiotics to counter secondary conditions, such as pneumonia. 

Elizabeth explains, “Plumpy Nut contains nutrients. It has calcium, folic acid and iron. It has all those nutrients that are needed by the body of the child.” It’s a quick and effective treatment, and can help a child survive deadly hunger.

However, ongoing conflicts, extreme weather from devastating droughts to record floods driven by climate change, plus the global skyrocketing cost of food staples, means hunger is a constant and recurring threat to children’s lives. 

As a health worker in Save the Children’s outreach clinic, Elizabeth knows how to administer quick and effective treatments
for child malnutrition.  

Elizabeth has seen many children leave her clinic in good health, only to return once again suffering from extreme hunger. “Now there’s no food in the community. Children are suffering…If there are no resources the community will suffer a lot. Especially kids”, she makes clear. 

But there is a solution that can help break this deadly cycle for a child, their family and the whole community

In a small village near Save the Children’s clinic, each month around 40 families receive cash support from Save the Children. It is part of our response made possible by our donors to help families and children build resilience and break the cycle of hunger that grips the community. 

Cash support programs can help children, families and the whole community
to build resilience and break the vicious cycle of hunger. 

Aker*, a 36-year-old mother, is part of the cash support program. “The program is something which is very important to us mothers, because our children have suffered. We’ve been given money that could be used for their treatment or what they are eating”, she says. 

Each month Aker lines up with other mothers to receive vital cash support from Save the Children that is helping
her young family get back on its feet. 

Aker knows too well the cost that hunger can exact on a family. Two of her children have died from malnutrition. When her two-year-old son Biel* also fell ill with severe acute malnutrition, she was desperate for help. Thankfully, with the generous support of donors, Elizabeth was there at our outreach clinic to successfully treat little Biel, and return him to good health. 

But for Biel to continue to thrive, our cash support program is needed to give Aker the power to buy the essentials that her son and the whole family need.

“Once we’ve received the money, we can buy milk and a biscuit for our children, and we get our food from it. This money is of great help to me. I have used some of it to rebuild my house which was destroyed by flooding”, she explains. 

Aker feeds Biel who has now returned to full strength. “The money is for me and my child
and how I use it wholly depends on me”,
Aker says.  

By using the cash support to purchase goods and services from local shopkeepers and tradespeople, Aker puts money back into the community, stimulating the local economy and helping the whole community get on the road to recovery.

Aker purchases goods from local shops and has used the cash support to pay local tradespeople to rebuild her home,
helping to kick start the battered local economy. 

The cash support program like this one in South Sudan is just one of the ways Save the Children is working to empower families like Aker’s with dignity and choice, enabling them to get back on their feet and face the challenges ahead with strength and optimism.

*Names changed to protect identities.

Photos: Esther Mbabazi / Save the Children.

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