Women in Warrap State turn to vegetable to fight malnutrition

Women in Warrap State turn to vegetable to fight malnutrition
Mary Abul Kiir gives water to Anger Mayuot at the Stabilisation Centre in Kuajok Hospital, Warrap State. [Sheila Ponnie, The City Review]

An entry into Kuajok State Hospital in Warrap State will usher one into a world of extremes, oozing desperation and hope. Mothers stream in with their children in their arms, ready to find healthcare for their babies. Scenes of frail, tired, and anaemic children who are gasping for air to keep their lungs afloat are easy to come by.

Mary Abuk Kiir, a mother of seven, arrived at the stabilisation centre with her severely malnourished daughter, Anger Mayuot, aged three years, clenching the hope of leaving for home with a healthy baby.

“My baby was in pain; she was unable to even sit up or open her eyes. I decided to bring her to the hospital right away because I knew that if I had not, she would have passed away by now,” she narrated to The City Review.

What she said she could not understand was how her Mayuot was constantly sick while her twin sister was in proper health.

At the triage, she was asked about her feeding routine for the baby, to which she replied with honesty that Mayuot survived on a meal a day.

“I feed my child with porridge in the morning and then I go to work in the market for some hours… This is why I am unable to get food at the end of the day,” she said, adding that her children depend on posho (baked maize flour).  

At her age, Mayuot will be getting breast milk to supplement her diet, but according to her mother, she is not able to produce enough milk.

 “I eat porridge in the morning, and then I go to work in the market for 4 to 5 hours before I can come home to cook for my children,” she recalled.  

“I struggle to get food, and even if I get it, it is not enough for all of us, and that is why you see I don’t have enough milk.  There is no food; life is very difficult.”

Like some of her peers trained by local NGOs like WFP, Kiir said she would consider joining their bandwagon to help her cater for her family.  

 “I’m prepared to join the farm and combat malnutrition,” she said.

Dr.Tong Mading, a medical doctor at the Stabilisation Centre in Kuajok Hospital at the children’s ward, has seen the devastating scenes of children all crammed in an overcrowded ward.

Mading said the majority of parents lack enough milk to give their kids.

 “From January up to the present time (November), we have admitted 340 children suffering from malnutrition cases,” he said.

“Four to five children are brought in each day, and most of them have severe malnutrition coupled with severe anaemia problems,” he added.

He said the number of malnourished children at the centre had increased because many South Sudanese families are unable to provide proper nutrition for their children in some parts of Kuajok villages.

“Acute food shortages are the primary cause of malnutrition in children,” he said.

“Another concern is that the economy is in decline because of the issues of floods and droughts.”

However, a group of women in Warrap State are determined to change the narrative by engaging in agricultural activities to fight and kick out malnutrition cases.   In a place where people heavily depend on sorghum and animal products for survival, the farming activities near the water pond are helping the county fight malnutrition cases.

On the small piece of land here, the women plant various nutritious foods to meet the needs of the local community.

Increasing the level of nutritional security for individuals requires both strengthening agriculture and tackling the problem of malnutrition.

The South Sudan Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) for Acute Food Insecurity and Acute Malnutrition projects states that between July 2023 and June 2024, 1.65 million children (6 to 59 months) will experience acute malnutrition.

Vegetable farm in Dom village

Cases of malnutrition

According to an IPC created by the WFP, UNICEF, and FAO in South Sudan, “the total number of cases of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) is estimated at 0.48 million and 1.16 million, respectively.”

It is anticipated that during the upcoming lean season, the state of nutrition will worsen, with 67 counties predicted to have serious, critical, or extremely critical malnutrition levels.

The main causes of the rising rates of acute malnutrition are a high incidence of disease, inappropriate feeding practices, a lack of access to clean water and sanitation, food hardship, and a large number of children returning from Sudan.

Director of WFP Country, Mary-Ellen McGroarty, said owing to the combined consequences of illness and food instability, the country is witnessing extremely critical levels of malnutrition for the first time.

“Only 5 children out of 100 are getting the recommended quality and frequency of food required for optimal growth,” she said.

She said that only a few states and counties are on the path to zero hunger and that acute food security and acute malnutrition continue to affect vast portions of the nation. 

The IPC report provided a detailed explanation of how several factors combine to produce the nation’s unacceptable rates of hunger and malnutrition, which have an impact on households and communities.

 “Conflict, violence, displacement, climatic and economic shocks, and the dearth of development, services, governance and infrastructure”

 McGroarty went on to deliberate the consequences and ramifications for the scope of humanitarian efforts taking place in South Sudan.  The places most in need will receive priority for humanitarian operations, resources, and assistance.

“We will prioritise populations living with the most severe levels of food insecurity and malnutrition with a portfolio of interventions to address immediate needs, enable households and communities to build resilience, adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” she said.

Josephine Lagu, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, said with the IPC report that the government of South Sudan would focus on resilience building for communities by improving a community-based extension system

“Resilience policies and programmes that support the simultaneous provision of social protection and social safety net programmes and the transformation of food systems through the spread of climate-resilience technologies”