In December 2013, tensions in South Sudan erupted into civil war. The escalation of violence in the already troubled country displaced tens of thousands of people, further disrupted agricultural production and made access to food even more difficult.
Combatants looted basic household items including jerry cans, leaving families to store their drinking water in gourds and open plastic buckets, increasing the risk of contamination. Using smaller storage vessels also meant that women and girls had to make multiple trips to water sources each day, increasing their work and the risk of violence to them.
Upper Nile State was particularly hard hit by the instability. By March 2015, nearly 300,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) had come to live there, but seasonal flooding and armed conflict limited humanitarian access. Poor conditions and a lack of clean water exacerbated the effects of malnutrition. An initial assessment by Relief International revealed that roughly 80 percent of families had cut back on meals because of increased food prices and primarily ate wild leaves, fruits, small animals, fish and insects. Almost no one was receiving relief or humanitarian assistance.
Today, Relief International partners with community-based workers to strengthen water infrastructure and improve critical nutrition services in Upper Nile State’s remote Longechuk Country. The year-long program, launched in June 2015 with support from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), provides food and clean water to roughly 70,000 individuals, including about 6,000 IDPs. RI staff live in some of the county’s furthest reaches, and our program is the only one providing malnutrition treatment in Longechuk’s Malual and Chatbotra districts.
This program, which follows RI’s integrated solutions approach, also offers:
- A mobile outreach team – including a nurse and community nutrition worker – to perform malnutrition screening and distribute supplements in Longechuk’s hardest-to-reach districts.
- Training for 22 community hygiene promoters to spread good water treatment, storage and hygiene practices.
- Distribution of five-gallon/20-liter jerry cans and hygiene kits to the most vulnerable households. The hygiene kits include soap, sanitary pads, underwear, razor blades, combs, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
- Creation of Village Water Committees (VWCs) to support the rehabilitation of boreholes and hand pumps.
- Education on water-borne disease and malnutrition prevention.
- Feeding programs for pregnant and lactating women, and children younger than two years old.
- Nutrition education training and weekly group counseling sessions on breastfeeding.