Save the Children, partners work to reduce malnutrition in Bor as cases rise

In Bor Town of Jonglei State, hunger has made malnutrition unpreventable among children and lactating mothers, according to health officials

Given dietary irregularities and imbalances, Baidit nutrition site officer, Michael Ayom Mabil, says a center receives at least five malnourished children and mothers every day.

Many factors can cause malnutrition, including inadequate or excessive food intake, infections, chronic illnesses, psychosocial deprivation, environmental factors, or genetics. Even mild degrees of malnutrition can lead to serious illness and even death.

Malnutrition is an imbalance in dietary intake. It occurs when a person has too much or too little food or essential nutrients. A person with malnutrition may lack vitamins, minerals, and other essential substances that their body needs to function.

People may become malnourished if they do not eat enough food overall. However, people who eat plenty but do not have enough variations in their diet can also become malnourished.

While in Bor, I visited nutrition sites at Pariak Primary Health Care Centre, Lualdit Primary Health Care Centre, and Baidit Primary Health Care Centre.

I watched 17 mothers line up early in the morning with their children to receive therapeutic food at nutrition centers where they are admitted for routine feeding.

Below is Adut Magot Mabior. Adut is 22 years old. She is holding her 7-months-old baby crying. She is a mother of 2 who lives in Lualdit village in Bor.

She said she realized that both children were malnourished after a health worker weighed them and the youngest was marked with acute malnutrition due to poor feeding.

Adut Magok, 22, carrying her 7-month-old baby diagnosed with acute malnutrition

“My child’s sickness started with fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. It refuses to breastfeed. The health facility helped by giving her milk and that milk really helped,” she explained.

Adut said her family is not able to get food every day because the floods destroyed all the crops she had cultivated. The drought also destroyed all the green vegetables that they could depend on.

Adut said her family subsists on a hardship lifestyle like going to the forest to fetch firewood to sell so that her children can get a meal for the day since she and her husband have no job.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Aduot Mayak – a mother attending to her baby at the nutrition facility at Pariak primary health care center – said malnutrition almost paralyzed her baby when she was 6 months before the nutritionist intervened.

She said her daughter survived acute malnutrition and she is now able to walk.

Aduot, however, mentioned that life is still hard even now that they cannot cultivate because of lack of rain.

Aduot Mayak, 18, is a lactating mother holding her daughter, Yom Agot,13 moths, at Pariak PHCC

She said: “My baby got sick and became so malnourished when she was learning how to crawl. She could not continue to crawl due to poor feeding. The nutritionists from the center came to investigate and I told them that she was 6 months and they advised that the child should eat fruits and vegetables, porridge, and plumpy’nut. She was taken to the center and admitted and given a plumpy nut, starting with the acute one and later enrolled in the moderate. Now she is well and can walk. I make Irish Potatoes for her; I cook fish for her, and she drinks soup and eats other fruits. She is okay now.”

Another breastfeeding mother at luldit village is 20 years old, Aluel Deng. Aluel’s child has been admitted for routine feeding at Pariak primary health care center. She said she could neither balance her families’ diets nor afford everyday meals because her family depends on humanitarian aid.

Earlier this year, the UN World Food Program withdrew relief operations in Jonglei over insecurity, leaving over one million people in dire need of food assistance.

Aluel Deng,age, 20, holding her malnourished baby at Lualdit PHCC

Aluel said this decision made them vulnerable to malnutrition, especially breastfeeding mothers, and children:

“Our situation is dire because we depend on relief food, and it has been months now without being distributed. We don’t have enough money to afford food in the market and this is the major problem. You see many children and lactating mothers are getting malnourished because there are no regular meals.”

A senior officer in Bor County Health Department, Gabriel Mabil, attributed the causes of malnutrition to lack of enough food, poor feeding, poor hygiene, and poor breastfeeding methods.

‘’People have not been able to cultivate since 2020 during the time of flooding in Bor as many residents were displaced from their original homes. They depend on meat and cow milk, but most cattle are not within Bor. More so, fishing was affected because of flooding and now people cannot access food,’’ Mabil stated.

The state Ministry of Health in Jonglei expressed fears that inflation is another issue affecting the lives of the community and if not addressed soon, there will be increased cases of malnutrition in Bor.

Chot Kueth Kulong, director general at the Ministry of Health in Jonglei State, says the government should try harder so that this inflation in the entire country is addressed.

“Market prices have increased, and this is affecting the economy and the community because some people are receiving little salary. And with these high market prices, they will not be able to provide for their families,” Chot stressed.

He said apart from inflation, inadequate rainfall this year will also result in more malnutrition cases as crops are drying up due to the sunny weather. Some of the symptoms of severe malnutrition include short stature, low energy levels, and swollen legs and stomach or edema.

The South Sudan Hunger Crisis says more than 7.8 million people in South Sudan are projected to fall short of their minimum food needs in 2023.

This is a substantial increase from the 6.3 million people who faced food insecurity in 2022. South Sudan may experience greater widespread hunger and starvation than during its civil war.

Right2Grow is being implemented by Save the Children and 7 other developmental and humanitarian organizations comprising four national NGOs (CIDO, UNIDOR, SPEDP and CRC) and three international NGOs (World Vision, Action Against Hunger and CEGAA).

The purpose is to enable all children under 5 to be well nourished to contribute to the growth and development of children in South Sudan and allow them to reach their full potential. Also, decision makers jointly and effectively address undernutrition in a multi-sectoral, gender-sensitive and inclusive way.