This week (9 July), South Sudan – the youngest nation on Earth – marks its ninth anniversary as an independent country. It has spent most of these years embroiled in a deadly civil war. But a new power sharing agreement was formalised earlier this year. Will this be the nation's turning point?
The civil war and ongoing conflicts have pushed many people further into poverty. It has been even worse for those already struggling to access basic needs, such as shelter and food.
Millions of people have been forced to leave their homes after seeing them burnt down and their possessions, cattle and crops looted or destroyed. Many have fled to neighbouring countries, such as Uganda, where they live as refugees. Others have tried to find refuge within South Sudan.
As conflict and devastating flooding continue to take their toll, the harvests are growing smaller, food prices have spiked, and hunger is increasing.
Where the need is greatest
Tearfund has been working in the area which is now South Sudan (formerly part of Sudan) since the 1970s. One of the ways in which we are working with local communities to tackle hunger is through our feeding centres.
Our feeding centres provide life-saving treatment and care to pregnant women, new mothers and their children. In three of the counties that Tearfund works in, we are the only agency running feeding centres. In one of these counties, last year’s dangerous floods wiped away 90 per cent of crops.
These feeding centres are vital in the fight against hunger. And as with all of Tearfund’s programmes, they have been set up to empower communities for the long term. The centres don’t just care for mothers and their children who are suffering from malnutrition, but they give them the training and tools needed to help prevent it.
Mothers are taught about good nutrition. Many go on to plant their own crops, supported through training by Tearfund or our partners. This means they can help their families get all the nutrients they need. Information about hygiene practices, such as handwashing, is shared so their homes can become safer against preventable diseases. And women have a safe space to gather and be heard.
Alec* is 28. She has been forced to move from place to place because of violence – always trying to provide a better life for her family. She initially fled the country in 2013, spending three years in a refugee camp in Uganda before returning home.
Life is hard for Alec and her small children. The place where she lives is prone to flooding. And because there’s a lot of water, it’s a breeding ground for mosquitoes and infectious diseases.
Alec used to collect firewood, which earned her a small income until her young daughter got sick. She gave up the job to care for her. But that pushed the family deeper into poverty.
One of Tearfund’s feeding centres was able to help Alec’s daughter to overcome malnutrition. She’s now much healthier and full of energy. ‘[My] child was not walking but now she is walking alone and can play with her sibling happily,’ says Alec.
‘What I am doing now is that I am cultivating my small kitchen garden to support my diet in my family. Now, my children can go to school and I hope – if all things go on well – they will have a better future.’