Saved! A critically undernourished boy is rescued by a clinic
by Chol Thomas Dongrin of Sign of Hope
It’s summer in Rumbek, a town in South Sudan. Everybody’s waiting for the harvest to start. They hope it will bring the food that will put an end to the illnesses and malnutrition so prevalent in the region.
Monyping Mabor is four years old. He weighed less than 10 kilos upon his arrival at the clinic in Rumbek. Monyping can’t stop crying.
I can hardly believe what Monyping Mabor’s mother tells me about him. “He’s already four years old.” The boy is so small and thin. She adds: “He’s in a bad way, he cries nearly all the time.”
Chol Ajuong is a staff member of the clinic at Rumbek, at which Monyping is now being treated. Chol explains that fits of temper and crying are characteristic of undernourished children. Monyping’s tender skin is parched. His face is sunken from his perpetual crying.
I am very moved by Monyping’s situation, by his suffering and by the need to put an end to it. Monyping’s parents are so poor that they haven’t been able to pay for any medical assistance for their child. His father is 45 years old, serves in the Army, and is seldom at home. His pay is very low. Kuei Tong is Monyping’s mother. She is 25 and did manage to finish the seventh grade. She never learned a trade. Farming keeps the family alive – more or less.
A four year old boy is supposed to weigh a lot more than 10 kilos. Monyping’s mother has no idea how to help him. She has placed the fate of her son in the hands of the clinic’s staff. Monyping suffers from diarrhea, nausea, lack of appetite and problems with his digestion. He tested positively for malaria. Monyping’s illness commenced a year ago, says the mother. The clinic’s physicians believe that the malaria caused his lack of ability to keep down his food. This, in turn, is starving him. “”My relatives told me to bring Monyping to this clinic,” says his mother.
Drought dries up the harvest
Malnutrition are usually widespread in Rumbek at this time of year. The harvest is generally undertaken at the end of August. The lack of precipitation will cause the harvest to be even later this year, exacerbating people’s problems.
I talk to Dengdit Madit. This elderly man is from a village that is located to the east of Rumbek. “It looks like next year will be even worse than this one,” he says worriedly. He ads: “The drought has dried out the fields in my village. They are so tinder dry that a single spark suffices to cause them to catch fire. Last year’s drought was nothing in comparison to this one.”
The region’s inhabitants are joined in experiencing hunger and other forms of want by refugees fleeing the civil war raging in South Sudan. These refugees now dwell in the villages that have sprung up around Rumbek.
The clinic serves a steadily large number of patients. One reason for the clinic’s popularity is that it doesn’t charge for treatment – in contrast to many of its counterparts. Their fees make them prohibitively expensive for many local residents. The lines of patients at Sign of Hope’s clinic start forming at 5 am. – or two solid hours before the clinic opens.
Help from program of nutrition
Monyping was in a critical way. This caused the clinic to immediately admit him to its program of emergency feeding and attention. Much of the food for the program comes from Sign of Hope, which delivers the highly-nutritious food required to get children like Monyping back on their feet. Also provided by Sign of Hope are powdered milk, sorghum, rice, edible oil, water and soap – all urgently needed by the destitute.
Other things provided by Sign of Hope to the clinic are medicines and money. The latter goes to help the clinic pay its staff.
Monyping has been treated for two weeks. His mother notices progress, even though that isn’t apparent to the uninformed eye. “Monyping had terrible diarrhea and vomiting and a high fever upon our arrival. He couldn’t keep anything down. He is now drinking milk. His temperature has gone down. He no longer has diarrhea.“
Many of South Sudan’s children are experiencing hunger and disease. Help for some of them is forthcoming from a clinic in Rumbek (a town in central South Sudan), which treats their malnutrition and illnesses.
That this clinic still exists is highly gratifying. The civil war raging in South Sudan has destroyed most of the country’s medical facilities. That is why the lines of sick and hungry children – and their parents – waiting at the clinic for treatment are always long.
Adong Mawal Bol is a year and a half old. Life has already completely intimidated her. With her eyes filled with sadness, she cowers on her father’s lap. Her little arms, thighs and back are covered with wounds and scars. These stem from the itchy rash – going by the name of Kwashiorkor and caused by malnutrition – on the little girl’s skin. Each attempt to heal the rash has not worked. Quite the opposite. The infected areas are getting larger and larger. In her pain and desperation, the small girl clings to her father – and refuses to deal with anybody else. Adong spends her days crying. She doesn’t eat and can’t keep still.
Children are suffering especially strongly from the crises gripping South Sudan. Shocking fact: one third of the country’s children are undernourished. “The famine persisting in South Sudan is producing a large number of seriously undernourished children,” reports James Majok Bol. He is a staff member at the clinic in Rumbek. Adong is one of these children. Her stomach is distended. She suffers from chronic diarrhea – and from Kwashiorkor. It causes her not to keep food down.
Adong is now receiving medical treatment and special nutrition. This includes high-energy biscuits. Maker Aweer – Adong’s father – keeps a close eye on his daughter. He suffers with her – and from her incessant weeping. Maker Aweer is the only father taking sole care of his child to be found on the clinic’s premises. Adong’s mother is keeping an eye on the family’s other three children at home.
Fleeing the civil war
Adong’s parents used to be farmers. They cultivated sorghum and peanuts. They also had cattle. Neither of them had the opportunity to get any education. They lived in Mayom, a village located some 25 kilometers away from Rumbek. The civil war forced them to flee their homes. “We never thought that we would be attacked. But one morning we were woken up by a strange pounding. It was still dark out. People started running for their lives, taking their children, their cows and goats with them. We heard shots. Children were crying. We were lucky. We found shelter for a few days with friends who had a cattle camp,” relates Maker Aweer, who is marked by the horrors that he has experienced. He had to overcome his great handicap when fleeing. He had lost years ago his right lower leg in a conflict. This lack of mobility hasn’t stopped him from bringing his daughter to Rumbek. “My wife wasn’t able to come. Armed conflict can break out at any time in the village in which we now live. She has to be prepared to grab our kids and flee. Once Adong has been gotten better, we are going to return to our family,” says the 40 year old.
Hoping for a better life
Maker Aweer lives in perpetual fear of being attacked. His fear is shared by many in South Sudan. Quite rightfully so. The civil war dominates the country’s life. It also exacerbates the country’s hunger crisis. To escape the armed groups roaming the land, rural dwellers flea to South Sudan’s cities – and to neighboring countries. They leave behind their fields – and thus their sources of food and livelihoods.
Maker Aweer is grateful for the clinic’s efforts. “When I brought my daughter to the clinic, I was desperate. My poor daughter looked terrible. She had wounds and infections all over her body. The clinic’s treatment is healing the wounds. She has started keeping down her food. She is gradually getting better. That makes me feel so much better – and stronger.“