Even though South Sudan’s hunger crisis isn’t making the headlines it is terribly real. Today I am at Lake Junaluska in the mountains of North Carolina having meetings with United Methodist leaders from the Holston Conference about our common ministry in this embattled country.
Our hope is to partner in our efforts to increase our impact. We all realize that working together accomplishes far more than working alone. In today’s meetings we will explore ways to connect and serve even more of those in need.
Stop Hunger Now works in dozens of countries around the world. Our implementing partners are dedicated and caring folks who are committed to helping the poor and hungry.
Old Fangak in South Sudan is the most remote and difficult place we work. The need there is immense and the challenges are almost unimaginable. But, by working together we are making real difference. Here is a report we received this past week from Gretchen Stone, a volunteer nurse working with Dr. Jill Seaman in the village.
Subject: Feeding issues
Lots of people here are hungry. It’s the end of the dry season, which means the harvest finished about 4 months ago. Old Fangak and its surrounding villages are normally home to 5000 souls. The resurgent civil war has meant a population boom of 30,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), most of whom arrived about a year ago. You can imagine what that does to the food supply. World Food Program provides food for IDPs, but WFP has its own issues. They were supposed to fly a month’s worth of food in this week, but emailed that they would be here April 7 instead–to which Jill wrote a very tactful letter saying she knows how challenged they must be, and how hungry folks are here–please don’t take this merely as a scheduling problem–and now they are coming on Tuesday!
But the feeding issues closest to home often sit right in our laps.
Many of the IDPs are big city folks. You can tell by the way they dress. Sometimes they have cell phones (no reception here, but they still play music) or fingernail polish. Women wear outfits that match, and often wigs with hundreds of tiny braids, and dangly gold earrings.
In the big city, they see doctors who tout infant formula in place of breast milk. The market here no longer has bread for sale, let alone infant formula. The other day, a regal woman with her so-cute-you-want-to-eat-him three month old presented with an official letter from the commissioner, asking that we give her formula. Pity. We explained that breast is best, and we can’t provide formula, but we could offer her some fortified milk powder to improve her supply. She was not impressed.
Yesterday, a scrawny, shriveled 2 1/2 month old appeared. His healthy-looking mom explained that his jaw wouldn’t grasp her nipple properly. He weighed in at 2 kg even. His facial shape and muscle tone indicate a congenital problem, which we are woefully unable to diagnose, let alone do much about. Jill explained that this is “from God”. We tried a bottle, but found that dribbling milk into his mouth with a syringe worked best. They went home with a tub of milk powder. We are not at all confident that he will live to finish it.
Then came the little sweetheart, with a child health card saying “Feeding problem. Refer Old Fangak.”
Her feeding problem? When this kid was 4 days old, her mum was bitten by a cobra, and died. Grandma spoon-fed her milk for 3 months–but then the cow died as well! It had taken a week from the time the referral was written for Grandma to walk the 12 hours, with babe in this basket on her head, to request help. We figured that was one of the better justifications for infant formula. She went home with a bottle, mosquito net and blankets as well.
Now we have one tub left. What baby out there needs it most?