South Sudan: The people continue to suffer

The Head Chief who spoke to CARE about the struggles faced by the people in his district

The head chief worries about the great suffering he sees ahead, particularly hunger.

There are few crops, no cows and no fishing. 

Most of the 50,000 people in his payam (district) eat only one meal a day. The elders tell him that they have not seen so much suffering since 1991 and that they expect worse to come. Hunger is already resulting in sickness and almost every family has a member stricken with illness.

While he hopes for peace, the chief is prepared to lead residents to Ethiopia later this year in search of food. He knows that many won’t make it but in the absence of outside assistance, they are left with few options.

The chief points to the surrounding houses.

If you were to ask me to see malnourished children, hungry mothers without milk for their babies, I could call to all of these houses and gather them for you now.

Ker photographed after treatment for leg wounds from CARE health staff  © CARE / Josh Estey

Ker (not his real name) photographed after treatment for leg wounds from CARE health staff

Ker is a boy of about nine or 10, his mother cannot remember. She has a child with a developmental disease, a baby suffering malnutrition, another with acute watery diarrhoea, and a large family to feed without money, crops or cattle, only a handmade spear that her young boys use for fishing. 

Neighbours cannot help because these days, “life is the same for everyone; there is nothing.”

If the family eats, it is once a day in the morning, and Ker’s mother worries all day about finding food for their next meal.

While she noticed that Ker had scraped his legs, she did not notice how badly his infection had become and how Ker was finding it painful to walk. The CARE clinical officer visiting her home was able to diagnose Ker’s infection, prescribe treatment and convince Ker to accompany him to the health facility where they were able to clean his wound and provide the necessary medications. 

CARE calls for more funding and support for healthcare in South Sudan

Grace Saita, CARE’s Health Advisor in South Sudan, says: “Disease, hunger, and the effects of displacement cause more deaths in conflict in low-income countries than guns and bullets. South Sudan is no different.

Simple measures, such as long-term investment in educating local birth attendants, will make for a stronger health system.

Aimee Ansari, CARE’s Country Director in South Sudan, says most of the 40 CARE-supported health facilities have remained open despite close proximity to the fighting, but adds: “We can do a lot more, if donors and others combine emergency and development assistance to build a local health care system that can serve the people of South Sudan for generations to come.”

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.