The boy who beat malnutrition in South Sudan

HungerSouth Sudan

‘When I grow up, I want to work for Tearfund! They took care of me when I was sick,’ says four-year-old Bul from Twic East in South Sudan. This is his dream after surviving a serious case of malnutrition.

Bul was born during a time of conflicts, poverty and hunger in a nation that’s barely nine years old itself. He’s being raised by his great aunt, Monica.

‘His parents have five other children and can not provide for all of them, so they sent me Bul when he was one year old,’ explains Monica. ‘I don’t have much, but my own children are older, so I took Bul and tried my best to provide for him.’

Monica bakes and sells bread to make ends meet, but after heavy rains and flooding in 2019 her business has struggled. The floods damaged many roads so she couldn’t get the supplies she needed for her bread. 

That’s when Bul became sick.

Children bear the brunt of this harsh reality.

‘With no money, it was very difficult to provide nutrients for a small child. He refused to eat and was always crying,’ recalls Monica. ‘When I took him to the health clinic, they discovered he had severe malnutrition and he was admitted to the feeding centre.’

Getting better
Bul was given medicine and therapeutic food for a week. Monica was given more supplements for him and he returned to the centre for monitoring every week, for six weeks, until he recovered. 

‘We praise God that he is healed,’ says Monica.

A lack of enough nutritious food is the main cause of malnutrition. The effects of conflict and the climate crisis are preventing communities from investing in agriculture. It means less food is produced and people rely more on imports from neighbouring countries, which can be expensive.

Children bear the brunt of this harsh reality. In South Sudan, infant mortality is very high. Many children don’t reach their fifth birthday and malnutrition is the cause of more than a third of children's deaths. 

At our feeding centres, Tearfund is helping children under five and pregnant and breastfeeding women to prevent and fight malnutrition. We provide nutrition education, support, and food items such as Plumpy Nut (a peanut paste). The programme also includes hygiene and sanitation education, as well as support to help prevent infections and other diseases.

Coronavirus considerations
Despite social distancing measures introduced in South Sudan due to the threat of a major coronavirus outbreak, the feeding centres continue to save the lives of many children like Bul.

‘If you try to shake hands, most people will tell you “No, we cannot shake hands because there is an outbreak”,’ says Anthony Rama, Tearfund’s Country Director for South Sudan.

‘In all our nutrition centres, there are posters with instructions on how to prevent the spread of coronavirus. There are also hand washing facilities and, for mothers and children who come for screening, they now have to keep a distance of one metre apart.’

‘The number of COVID-19 cases in South Sudan is increasing and this is a worry for us as we have limited healthcare infrastructure. We ask for prayers that the Lord will bring healing to the affected and for an end to the spread [of coronavirus] by providing the skills and resources needed,’ says Anthony.
 
Future dreams
Monica hopes God will continue to protect Bul and her family, and bring peace to South Sudan so she can develop her business.

‘The floods damaged a lot of things. People lost their crops, and there were a lot of diseases so many people died. The climate has been hard on us – first it was the drought, then it’s floods... but when there is peace, you can move around and earn a good living.’  

PLEASE PRAY

• Pray for Bul and other children in South Sudan to have a happy and healthy future.
• Lift up Monica, Bul’s great aunt, and all parents and guardians who are concerned about providing for their children in such challenging circumstances.
• As South Sudan continues to live in the midst of conflict and the climate crisis, pray for lasting peace and protection from extreme and unpredictable weather.

Diane Igirimbabazi