South Sudan: Innovative Relief for the Sick and Hungry
Nyakoang Rieka set out from her village in the afternoon. Pregnant and with her elderly mother and three small children in tow, she walked several miles through the hot, dry South Sudanese countryside to get to the food distribution at the Pagak Way Station, a group of canvas warehouses and austere concrete block buildings set up to distribute aid. Upon arrival, Ms. Rieka promptly gave birth to her fourth child.
Within hours she was on her way back home with two week’s rations of sorghum, split peas and cooking oil and vaccinations for herself and the children.
What arrived as a family of five now accounted for six of the more than 8,000 people reached by the rapid response mission to Pagak, in Upper Nile State near the border with Ethiopia. The multi-agency effort was motivated by the conflict in South Sudan, and the enormous suffering that it has wrought.
What drew thousands to the distribution center from the surrounding communities was a combination of hunger brought on by disrupted lives and livelihoods and food made available by the distribution system of the World Food Programme. The dividend was health and malnutrition screening for children under 5, polio and measles vaccinations for all children of appropriate age and tetanus shots for women. The parallel health activities were organized by UNICEF and implemented with the help of CARE and local volunteers. The group also identified children who have been separated from their families and entered them into a nationwide database designed to reunite families scattered by the conflict.
“This is an innovative relief initiative,” said CARE Emergencies Officer Isaac Vuciri. “It leverages one set of commodities to provide a broad range of health and protection services, all at the same time.” Vuciri spent several days helping prepare the four-day event, then spent two days registering families and physically verifying their head counts and another day helping to distribute heavy sacks of grain and large cans of cooking oil.
Once registered, the families were guided to another section of the Way Station where CARE’s Maternal and Child Health Officer Agnes Lawa helped screen children for signs of malnutrition and other maladies. “We made a lot of referrals and those mothers will take their children to the local clinic tomorrow for further evaluation to confirm their nutritional status and whether they require in-patient or out-patient treatment,” Lawa said. “It is so sad to see these young children suffering, but I take heart in knowing that they can improve rapidly with the right kind of very basic care.”
Story from CARE Emergency Response Proposal, May 2, 2014.