Project/Icons / advocateProject/Icons / appealsProject/Icons / blog postProject/Icons / documentsProject/Icons / educateProject/Icons / healthProject/Icons / media releaseIcons/moneyIcons/moneyx2Project/Icons / petitionIcons/Ionic/Social/social-pinterestProject/Icons / protectProject/Icons / quoteProject/Icons / supportProject/Icons / volunteerProject/Icons / water

Hungry children cannot wait

22 May 2023, Impact of Our Work, Voices from the Field

Malnutrition killed her two children – then a third was at risk

Thirty-six-year-old mum Aker has seen her fair share of tragedies. Two of her children died from malnutrition – and then a third child, Biel developed the same health condition putting his life at risk as well.

It’s another blow to a life that has seen much hardship. Ten years ago, her husband and brother-in-law were killed in a brutal attack, part of an ongoing conflict that has engulfed South Sudan for decades. 

Then the floods came, destroying her crops, her cattle huts, her home.

Aker says, “If we try to farm in our villages, our crops get affected by pests and diseases. Or sometimes we are faced with floods which cause low yields.”

In places like South Sudan, conflict, extreme weather events and soaring food prices are driving a crippling hunger crisis. And children are affected most, with the threat of severe acute malnutrition.

With help from donors, Aker was able to take two-year-old Biel to a Save the Children stabilisation clinic. There he was treated by trained health worker Elizabeth who says, “He came with the condition of diarrhoea and a cough and severe acute malnutrition. 

“The mother [Aker] was like, ‘I didn't have anything at home. My child is suffering. We have nothing to eat. We have two other children that have nothing to eat.’”

Health worker Elizabeth is in a race to save children’s lives in this stabilisation centre in South Sudan.

It’s a situation that’s not unique to Biel. Elizabeth shares, “Now, there's no food in the community. Children are suffering.”

If there are no resources the community will suffer a lot. Especially kids, especially kids. I'm a mother, it hurts. It hurts.

Elizabeth, Save the Children clinical officer, South Sudan

A critical step to survive

A course of ready to use therapeutic peanut paste called PlumpyNut helps health workers like Elizabeth to treat and conquer malnutrition in children like Biel.

“PlumpyNut contains nutrients. It has calcium, folic acid and iron. It has all those nutrients that are needed by the body of the child,” Elizabeth says.

Each sachet is a compact meal in itself, with 500 calories packed with protein, minerals and vitamins. And it can transform a desperately sick child in a matter of weeks. 

Plumpy Nut helped Biel get on the road to recovery. 

A way to stop the deadly cycle of hunger

But a child’s survival from malnutrition is just the start. In places like South Sudan, with ongoing conflict, extreme weather events and rising global cost of food, hunger is a constant and recurring threat. A hungry child’s immunity is repeatedly under attack, making them vulnerable to illness.

Providing families with cash support is a solution that can help break this deadly cycle of hunger.

After receiving cash support, Aker heads to the local market to buy food for her family.

Aker shares how cash support from Save the Children gives her the power to take care of her family.

“The money is for me and my child and how I use it wholly depends on me. Once we’ve received the money, we can buy milk and a biscuit for our children, and we get our food from it.”

Aker was also able to use part of the cash support to rebuild her family home. She says,“This money is of great help to me. I have used some of it to build my house which was destroyed by flooding.” 

A succession of floods has swept away homes and crops, but cash support helps Aker provide for her family.

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 back on the road to recovery.

Help children like Biel survive and thrive

With the rising cost of living, it’s getting to be an even greater stretch for families, and it’s putting the lives of many children like Biel at risk of malnutrition. Hungry children cannot wait. 

Photos: Esther Mbabazi / Save the Children.

Stay up to date on how Save the Children is creating a world where every child has a safe and happy childhood