South Sudan has some of the highest malnutrition rates in Sub-Saharan Africa – children and babies are most acutely impacted. Three in 10 children under five will have suffered from stunting*, limiting both their physical and cognitive growth, and often causing chronic diseases in adult life.
The UK Aid Match project takes a holistic approach to tackling malnutrition in the Aweil North and Jur River regions of the country. We aim to make positive behavioural changes with people, institutions and market systems involved in access to nutrition – including mothers, farmers, county nutrition departments, and other key community stakeholders.
Aweil North and Jur River regions of South Sudan
July 2018 to July 2021
28,174 women and girls of child-bearing age and 24,733 children under five
Support for peace, education, development programme (SPEDP)
Hope Agency For Relief and Development (HARD)
The project aims to improve both the awareness of and access to basic nutrition, primarily amongst women of child-bearing age and children under the age of five.
A key focus of the project is changing the culture around nutrition. This can involve dispelling misguided beliefs. For example, it’s often seen as unhealthy for women to eat meat during lactation. It also includes trying to change the attitudes that prevent women from accessing information about nutrition.
We’re working with mothers, who tend to hold the most influence in household matters, equipping them with practical knowledge around nutrition – for example the importance of breastfeeding during and after child illness.
Importantly, we’re extending this awareness activity to other key agents of change, including faith leaders.
The project is also helping to improve the availability of nutritious food. Training is being provided to farmers to improve the quality and quantity of their crops. This involves establishing ‘demonstration plots’, where community members can see first-hand the impact of the improved agricultural practices.
1. Farmers will be trained on diversifying their crops and better agronomic practices
2. Market traders will be enabled to source a wider variety of foods and better sanitation/food handling to reduce risk of food poisoning.
3. Fishermen and women will be trained on better fishing techniques, enabling them to capture better quality and quantity of fish.
4. Trainers share nutritional information through mother-to-mother groups.
5. Mothers are enabled to start their own vegetable gardens, providing more nutritious diets for them and their families.
6. Engaging influential faith leaders, equipping them with biblically founded messages around nutrition to share with the community.
7. Partnering with members of the local council to ensure project activities are coordinated with provision of health services.
8. County health services will be coordinated with to enable referrals of pregnant women from traditional birth attendants.
9. Traditional birth attendants are trained with messages around post-natal care and are connected with health clinics to refer pregnant mothers before labour.
10. Village savings and loans associations are established, enabling women to save money and providing a safety-net if they encounter financial problems.
Rebecca was given seeds for maize, sorghum, cowpeas and groundnuts. She also got tools – an axe, rakes and hoes.
‘I am happy. I have good health now. You can see it. All the crops give me a balanced diet – I have vitamins and protein.’
‘Before the project I would not know which types of food were healthy. Now I know we need different types of food to be healthy.’
After receiving training on nutrition, Rebecca now gives her four-year-old son a wider variety of food. She now knows what food to give and not to give. She discovered that young children should not have groundnuts so now she does not give them to her two-year-old daughter.
She says she has a lot more experience now. ‘I didn’t know planting different crops would help nutrition.’
She used to sell crops in the market but there was never enough to really help. Now she has money she can plan more and keep some for emergencies. She wants to be able to sell crops in the market and perhaps open a business.
She expects that the whole community will no longer need to depend on WFP (World Food Programme) and on selling charcoal.
Achela raises five children by herself having been windowed. She is a member of one of the women-to-women groups established as part of the UKAM project.
‘I was happy to join the group. I wanted to get more knowledge and skills to help my children. I now know what to eat when you are pregnant and when you are breastfeeding and what is the best way to feed children. I learned about the types of food to give pregnant women – white meat like chicken and goat, eggs and vegetables. For me getting white meat frequently is a problem but I can get vegetables now.’
She explained that in previous years there was more sickness and disease in the village but now she and her children are healthier.
‘My life is not like last year. I have been trained on hygiene, on cleaning utensils, washing hands before and after eating.’
She is growing maize, sorghum and groundnuts. She hopes to grow more plants and vegetables and wants to cook good food for her children so they don’t get sick.
The Village Savings and Loans group started in March 2019 with 15 women and ten men.
They can now save their money for emergencies in the future. This is the only way they can save or get loans as they cannot access commercial banks.
All the members of the group self selected to join the group. They save money weekly, each person pays 250 SSP (around £1.50) each week.
It was hard for them to save money before, but now they save money in this box and hope to expand their businesses. Some of the members want to buy goats and cows. They can also loan money in an emergency. The money they save helps with school fees and with feeding their families.
Other elderly people are interested in joining the group - they are too old to farm but they can start a business. Some family members have even adopted the same scheme at a household level.
The bookkeeper is in charge of the box. There is also a chair and three different key holders. The box is a large blue box with three padlocks and a different key holder for each padlock. This means the box has to be opened together and not by just one person. The key holders must come from different families.
Saving day is a Monday. Most of the female members want to open a business in the market. And at a household level, the members want to buy domestic animals and pay school fees.
The group wants to see more development help rather than humanitarian aid.
‘We hope not to need emergency support in future.’