Stories from South Sudan

Saved! A critically undernourished boy is rescued by a clinic

Chol Thomas Dongrin
Chol Thomas Dongrin

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.“