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God’s great plans as South Sudan turns eleven

As South Sudan turns eleven, our team shares how testimonies from people we serve highlight how God is at work.

Written by Rosemary Wilfred | 08 Jul 2022

Projects providing seeds, tools and training to farmers are helping supply families with food but the need is still great in South Sudan. | Image credit: Will Swanson/Tearfund

Despite its peaceful separation from Sudan eleven years ago, conflict has persisted in South Sudan for a very long time – hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives. Now, the country faces crisis levels of hunger, life-threatening malnutrition and some of the worst cases of infant mortality in the world. The humanitarian needs in South Sudan are enormous, and continue to grow with each passing day.

It can be easy to lose faith, even to lose hope, yet we – the team in South Sudan – haven’t. Tearfund and our local partners continue to work hard and we are able to see God’s goodness and his kingdom coming every day as we continue to support the people most affected by the crises.

The need is great in South Sudan, but we believe that God has brought us this far, and has great plans for our nation. Here are some of the ways we are investing in the future of South Sudan and how you can continue to pray with us.

All the difference

Tearfund is working with UNICEF to run home and clinic screening across three counties in South Sudan. These visits not only help establish better relationships with communities, so people know how and where to get support from, but they’ve also helped to spot early signs of malnutrition. It’s made all the difference to families like Elizabeth’s*.

‘After birth, my child, Matida*, was healthy and I was happy as well,’ says Elizabeth, a 19-year-old mother. ‘But after six months, her health started to deteriorate. [She went] from being a playful, joyous girl and started crying a lot, breastfeeding less and sometimes could not even eat food.’

Elizabeth took her to a local hospital to check for malaria – the biggest killer of children under five in South Sudan – but the tests came back negative.

‘I was confused, I kept wondering what was wrong with my baby?’ shares Eizabeth.

It was a home visit from Tearfund that gave Elizabeth the answers she desperately needed.

Diagnosis

‘One day the team from Tearfund came to my home for screening. They asked me if I received training on how to perform screening for a child’s malnutrition from the upper arm, I told them no,’ continues Elizabeth.

‘The team then demonstrated to me how to do it for my child and I did it well.’

By measuring the circumference of the left upper arm, at the midpoint between the tip of the shoulder and the tip of the elbow, families can check the child’s health.

The results showed that Matida lacked enough nutrients, which is why she had been losing so much weight. Matida was immediately referred to Tearfund’s feeding centre. 

Babies and mothers are assessed as they arrived at the feeding centres. | Image credit: Dr Taban Isaac

Relief

‘At the nutrition site, my child was checked again and enrolled right away on one of the nutrition programmes where she started receiving a weekly ration of Ready-Use-Therapeutic Food to be eaten at home,’ explains Elizabeth.

‘After four weeks into the programme, I was seeing changes in the health of my child and she could now play with other children and look happy. I also started feeling relieved.

‘Other positive outcomes that I have gained are the teaching about how to prepare food for an eight-month-old child and the variety of foods required. I also learned how to maintain hygiene at home and during feeding of the child. The nutrition programme is helping a lot.’

‘My sincere thanks go to Tearfund for the help offered to my child.’

Knowing where to get help

When Cecilia* noticed her one-year-old daughter, Nyamai*, was sick, she knew where she could get help. Even though she was heavily pregnant, she made the one-hour trip on foot to one of Tearfund’s feeding centres.

Nyamai was very weak and dehydrated and was soon diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, as well as pneumonia. In Uror Country, in Jonglei state where they are from, malnutrition is a major threat to children under five. This is due to high levels of food insecurity as well as inadequate feeding practices of infants and young children. Also, worsening floods and rising water levels have damaged roads, impeding access to health centres and food support reaching communities in need.

Nyamai’s treatment started immediately and emotional support was on hand for Cecilia too.

‘I was worried because I could give birth anytime to my new baby, yet my one-year-old daughter was still very ill…’ shares Cecilia. ‘The staff were nice to me, they counselled me and encouraged me to be strong, they also assured me that my daughter will get better.’

 Baby Nyamai has received treatment for malnutrition at the feeding centre. | Image credit: Dr Taban Isaac

Thank you, God

After 14 days on the feeding programme and treatment, Nyamai was looking much better and slowly regaining her strength – she began to stand up and play with her mother. During this time, Cecilia gave birth.

By the fourth week, Nyamai was declared clinically well and alert. Her appetite for food returned, and she gained an additional 1.5kg of weight. Her treatment lasted for 31 days.

‘I am just very happy that Tearfund saved my daughter’s life, no words are enough to describe my appreciation,’ says Cecilia. ‘...My child was saved from dying, thank you, God.’

Nyanjang then attended training sessions at our feeding centre, where she learnt about nutrition, breastfeeding and how to protect her family against common diseases and illnesses. She is excited to share this information with other women in her community, so together they can improve the health and lives of other children.

Small acts of kindness

Tearfund runs 33 feeding centres – like the one that Cecilia visited – across five counties in South Sudan. We thank God that all of them are fully up and running again as several of them had to close when deadly flooding hit Twic East.

From April 2021 to May 2022 we have:

  • through home visits, screened 260,518 families
  • admitted 45,499 children into our feeding centres – 93 per cent of these have been cured
  • reached 102,124 people with vital messaging around nutrition and hygiene
  • trained 117 nutrition and health workers so that we can support even more people in need.

The needs are great and sometimes we don’t realise how much difference we are making in the lives of these people until we hear from them.

When you hear such stories, that’s when you realise that God is using us to make a difference in people’s lives and to support them to reach their God-given potential. And I believe that God is everywhere where his will is done. The kingdom of God can be hidden in the small acts of kindness we show other people, especially people who need help.

Facing the future together

One of the major challenges in South Sudan – that impedes our work and disrupts people’s lives – is safety. Violence can stop our team from travelling to communities to conduct home visits. It also makes the journey dangerous for people, often women,  journeying to our centres with their sick children, to get life-saving support.

We are thankful for the church in South Sudan, it has stood the test of time. The church in the middle of all of this remains one of the trusted institutions that people still look up to for solidarity, for hope and for healing. During violent conflicts, the church has always been there advocating for peace, ensuring peaceful resolutions to conflicts, mediating between conflicting communities and enabling reconciliation and forgiveness and healing from trauma.

It is the church we continue to look to help lead us as violence spreads in South Sudan. Even with a new political agreement that brings together many warring factions, some groups still hold out.

Please pray with us for the future of South Sudan, a future filled with hope and lasting peace.

Pray with us 

Loving God,

We thank you for the people of South Sudan, for your love for them and the plans you have for them. Lord, we declare your grace, your mercy and your favour on South Sudan.

God, we lament that South Sudan is facing its highest levels of hunger and malnutrition since its independence. God, please urgently provide for those in need – let no one go hungry. We thank you for the feeding centres and home visits that Tearfund do – we pray that each person they reach will see your loving hand and will overcome poverty and reach their God-given potential.

God, we cry out for an end to the violence in South Sudan. Keep people safe. We pray for protection for people travelling to Tearfund’s feeding centres and for the home visitors trying to reach people in need. We pray for the political agreement to be fully implemented and for every group that has signed it to work for peace.

God, we thank you for the church in South Sudan – how they are promoting peace between communities. We pray that you will continue to unite them so they can deliver your message of peace and bring restoration and healing.

Holy God, let your kingdom come in South Sudan.

Amen.

 

 *Names changed to protect identities 

Written by

Written by  Rosemary Wilfred

Media and Communications Manager, South Sudan Team

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