Thousands turn up to register for food aid in Leer County
Thousands of people hit by hunger in Leer County in the Unity region turned up at Thonyor Payam on Saturday to register for food aid, following last week's declaration of famine in parts of South Sudan.
Women and men, including children and elderly people, endured the long trek and braved the heat to get to the nearest registration centres. Sitting on the dry, cracked land, they waited for their turn to register for the food.
“We are coming here to look for food because we are suffering from hunger,” said one of the women.
“We are looking for food cereal, sorghum, oil, and beans,” said a mother of four, who spoke with difficulty as she was trying to make sure that each of her children was registered and given a food card.
Last week, the government and UN agencies declared a famine in parts of South Sudan, where 100,000 people are facing starvation. Overall, some 40 per cent of the population is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
Thonyor in Leer County is one of the four counties in Unity State that has been hit by famine. This was the first trip by the World Food Programme and its partners to the area, which was previously inaccessible due to long-persisting insecurity.
Justin Gatliath, a father of six, described the pain his family has endured over the past nine months living in the swamps without food.
“We didn’t have food, we didn’t have anything, but we have been eating water lilies from the river.”
In partnership with other humanitarian agencies, the World Food Programme is coordinating the latest humanitarian response in Leer County.
After registering, each resident in the area is handed a card that entitles him or her to food rations sufficient for 30 days.
Malnutrition is a major threat to the children in Leer, with displacement and poor access to health services further compounding the situation.
An Interagency Rapid Response Mission is now on the ground with plans to provide food, nutrition, livelihood and health support to about 36,000 people in need.
Nile Hope is one of the agencies working in partnership with UNICEF to provide nutritional support to malnourished children in Thonyor Payam.
Nellie Kuong Nero, working for Nile Hope, says the agency is screening people in Thonyor for malnutrition.
“We are looking for the new cases which are unable to reach (the registration centre) and they are here in Thonyor,” said Kuong, adding that the malnourished children are given Plumpy’Nut.”
“We are trying to prevent malnutrition in Thonyor because malnutrition here is very common.”