In emergencies, children are often forced to take on adult roles and responsibilities in order to help their families in the fight for survival. Here are 5 ways that children from South Sudan are enduring in the face of the hunger, chaos and uncertainty the food crisis has generated.
1. Eating seeds and leaves
Families who have fled their homes because of conflict, whose livestock have been stolen or whose crops have perished due to drought are forced to find food and nutrition from other sources.
The Lalob tree provides fruit from which edible seeds can be extracted once they’ve been cracked open and cooked, usually by women and girls. It's a time-consuming process for someone who is desperately hungry, however, this process is keeping some families alive. When there is no fruit to be found, some harvest the leaves from the Lalob tree but they have little nutritional value and can make children ill.
2. Abandoning their education
Around 76% of primary school aged girls in South Sudan are currently out of school. Girls are far more likely to be removed from school to search for food, fetch water, help with housework and care for family members during emergency situations. Some are simply too weak from hunger to continue attending. Plan International has introduced the Food for Education programme which aims to keep children in school by providing meals to schoolchildren in several of the worst-hit areas.
3. Fishing - every day
Every day, children like 7-year-old Lat Bol are fishing for their families to provide food. Each morning, Bol heads off with a group of boys his age to catch fish in the ponds near his home. He describes them as no bigger than the size of his hand. Combined with whatever fruits and leaves his three sisters can find, the family has just enough to prepare a bowl of soup per person each day.
4. Early marriage
In the desperation of the food crisis, an increasing number of families are pushing their daughters into marriage in exchange for dowries of money or livestock. These circumstances rob girls of their basic right to choose when and to whom they get married. Their lives thereafter are likely to become a grind of domestic chores and worse such as in the case of 17-year-old Lezia from Kapotea East county who has also suffered scarification. This is intended to suggest her new husbands 'ownership'.
5. Humanitarian aid
Plan International is working in Lakes State, Central and Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei to provide life-saving food and nutrition, agricultural tools and fishing kits to children and families who are in desperate need. We are also providing meals for schoolchildren in several areas to help them stay in education and prevent families resorting to other 'solutions' such as early marriage. However, the food crisis is spreading, needs are increasing and supplies are quickly running out.
Help children who are affected by the food crisis
Please help children and families who are struggling to survive by donating to the East Africa Food Crisis Appeal.