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Helping those most in need in Southern Sudan

The area around Nasir, Sudan suffers from extreme poverty and has experienced failed crops for the past two years. Consequently, people’s coping strategies do not exist to address the food gaps, and malnutrition rates are worryingly high.

A World Food Programme tent holding food surrounded by 'tukuls'.

Our mission is to assess the extent of the malnutrition in the area, to identify families who are extremely vulnerable and need help, and to link up food distributions to local health centres.

The idea of linking food and health is to encourage particularly pregnant women and mothers of children who are 24-months-old or younger to come and collect food rations, and at the same time get a health check-up.

To get to one of the villages, Jikmir, which we had heard was particularly vulnerable, we took a boat up the Sobat river. The journey lasted for about 90 minutes and we benefitted from a cooling breeze and glimpses of a host of wildlife, including a crocodile.

It doesn't look big, due to the huge grasses above the river looking deceptively like the size of a home county lawn, but, hey, it’s still a crocodile!

In Jikmir, we were met with a barrage of intrigued eyes and broad smiles. But the smiles couldn’t conceal some of the manifestations of malnutrition, particularly amongst the children: discolouration of the hair, and bloated bellies. There is a definite need in Jikmir, and I really hope we will be in a position to address it.

After asking a series of questions about individuals’ eating habits and the availability of food, we set off back down the river.

That night we reflected on our findings, and planned the following two days of the assessment.

We were to find similar situations in two other villages. Even if our proposal is successful, and despite the large amount of funding on offer, there is more need here than we will be able to meet, so we will have to target our response to the most vulnerable.

As the sun went down and the fire flies came out to dance with the stars, we discussed how we could best address the needs of the area. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of suffering in Southern Sudan. But we need to be pragmatic, pick our battles and overcome the most urgent issues that we can.

A rusting tank serves as a reminder of the region’s violent history – a key cause of Sudan’s low levels of underdevelopment.

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