South Sudan: How CARE supports families when hunger strikes

Mary Amal in her village in South Sudan

Mary Amal is a hard-working mother in Torit, South Sudan. She is a widow. Left with four young children to feed when her husband died in 2014, Mary continued farming the family plot.

When the rains were good, she was able to produce enough. But for the past two years, her harvest has been bad. Last year, she only managed to produce only one bag of sorghum that lasted the family only three months. She says:

I don’t have anything to eat now. If I don’t go into the bush to look for wild fruits, my children will sleep on an empty stomach.

Wild fruits for food

Mary travels for four hours every day to collect wild fruits, which she cooks for the family. The small brown fruits are difficult to prepare. She has to peel them first to expose the small flesh inside.

“I have to wash the flesh thoroughly before cooking. If I don’t do that, it becomes bitter and also poisonous,” says Mary. “I have to cook them for more than three hours before we eat.”

Hunger leading to malnutrition

Two months ago, Mary’s third-born child developed diarrhoea after eating the wild fruits. He was treated in hospital and recovered, but since then he started refusing to eat the wild fruits. Mary says:

I had nothing to give him and he got so malnourished.

“I had no choice but to send him away to my brother. He has better chances of surviving there because they at least have some food.”

Mary Amal holding wild fruits in South Sudan
Mary holding the wild fruits which she gathers and cooks to feed her family

CARE gives hope to Mary

In the past, Mary has only grown sorghum for food. However, this led to a lack of variety in the family’s diet. To help Mary boost her food production and diversify and improve the family’s diet, CARE supported her with high-yielding sorghum seeds and a variety of vegetable seeds.

“I am looking forward to the farming season,” says Mary, who has also been linked to lead farmers in her group to learn better farming methods. 

It is difficult to get seeds for vegetables in this area. With the seeds I got from CARE, I hope to plant enough vegetables so that my children don’t suffer from malnutrition again.

Natalia Adong and her children in South Sudan
Natalia Adong with three of her six children

Natalia Adong is another widow who has just returned to Torit after three years living in the neighbouring state of Ikwotos. She and her six children fled their home when her husband was shot and killed.

When a semblance of peace returned in her community, Natalia decided to come back to her village to start a new life again. She says:

“When I came, I planted sorghum but I didn’t harvest anything. We had a mix of bad weather and bad fortunes as my whole field was destroyed by army worms and excessive heat due to prolonged dry spells.”

I look at my kids and feel the pain of a mother when I can’t feed them. I have at least try to give them one meal a day. But this is becoming more difficult.

If the rains come in good time, Natalia’s fortunes may change for the better. She recently received a starter pack of seeds and farm equipment from CARE. The seeds, which consists of the staple millet, and an array of vegetables will improve her food production as they are a high yielding variety.

Better prospects ahead

“I look forward to the rains since I now have seeds for my farm,” says Natalia.

I am very grateful to CARE for the help. If we get good rains, I am sure I will harvest enough to feed my family.

In addition to the seeds, Natalia has been linked to a CARE-supported farmer group in her area. They meet regularly to share experiences in modern farming methods and proper preservation of the harvest to ensure that they have food to eat in the months ahead.

CARE's picture

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