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Hunger bites in rural South Sudan


Nakale, 30, walking in her sorghum field in Kapoeta North. Her sorgum was destroyed by cows when she was attending to her daughter Natede in the Stabilization Centre. She is now gathering wild fruits to feed her children.

Nakale missed out harvesting her sorghum this year and is now scavenging for lalok (wild fruits) to make ends meet.

The lalok fruit Nakale gathers from trees close to her boma (village) for her and her children are of little nutritional value. The fruit can cause diarrhoea in children, but there are few alternatives.

No choice

Nakale missed the harvest because she was caring for her daughter, Natede.

Natede was admitted to a Save the Children stabilisation centre for three months, after being diagnosed with pneumonia and malnutrition.

“When Natede was in the hospital, I didn’t have time to cultivate,” shared Nakale. “The little sorghum I did cultivate was then flooded, and what was left was destroyed by cattle.”

“Now I have to labour in other people’s fields to get food. If not for my child’s sickness, I could have harvested.”

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Traditionally, the Toposa women of Kapoeta do all the work close to the house; digging, harvesting and building the tukuls (grass-thatched huts) where they live, while the men are out looking after the cattle.

So if the woman is sick, or away attending to a sick child in the hospital, no agricultural activities can take place, resulting in hunger.

A growing problem

Lots of women like Nakale face food shortages. Nanok and her fellow villagers had two season’s of sorghum crops destroyed by birds and disease.

“I am not happy to feed this (lalok fruit) to my children but what can I do? I will give them the lalok seeds until I have enough harvest next year,” said Nanok.

Nanok breaking Lalok seeds (wild fruits) from their hard casing in Mosingo boma, Kapoeta North South Sudan. Lalok fruits and seeds are eaten when food is scarce.
Nanok breaking Lalok seeds (wild fruits) from their hard casing in Mosingo boma, Kapoeta North South Sudan. Lalok fruits and seeds are eaten when food is scarce.

“There is no good food so our children are eating things that are not helpful to their bodies,” said Lomusu, mother of five.

Michael, the Boma chief of Mosingo, explains: “Hunger has been a serious problem here for the last few years. People are now surviving on fruits, if there are no fruits people can die. The problem is that the climate has changed, it is not raining as it used to before.”

What we’re doing

Save the Children is running a nutrition and health project in Kapoeta North County, where malnutrition is widespread.

Lokitoe, 7, lying on the ground outside the Riwoto stabilization centre. Lokitoe is severely malnourished, as she spent months before her mother brought her to the centre. When she was brought she couldn’t eat or drink. Lokitoe is now recovering.

The general diet of families in this area is of poor nutritional value. If families are lucky, they eat twice a day; many eat only once.

We’ve set up a life-saving nutrition programme for more than 30,000 children, pregnant women and new mothers.

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