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)
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.
Elisa Nyanut Abraham lives in Nyikiji, a village comprising mostly temporary housing in rural South Sudan, outside the country's second largest city, Wau.
Like many of the villagers, Elisa was forced to move with her family to this village because of conflict elsewhere in the district. Shortly after arriving, she gave birth to her son. She explained that she spent the whole of the rainy season here under these plastic shelters.
She explains that life is challenging. Her husband makes charcoal to sell in order to buy food. Whatever they're both able to earn in a day they spend on food.
Asked who decides what to eat in her family, she explains the reality of the situation.
''It's not about a decision, it's about a search. It's whatever food we have on that day. Mostly my husband brings food that we can afford like sorghum, cassava flour and maize flour. Meanwhile I'll get okra, dried fish, groundnut paste and or vegetables to get the meal prepared. At times I cannot get these so I boil cereals and grains and we just eat this. Under certain circumstances like my son being sick (as he is now), it is a different thing altogether. In these situations, it is hard to find food and because it's the dry season, there are no green leaves.''
Elisa is one of over a hundred women in Nyikiji, who will be trained in growing their own crops and will benefit from saving money through the village savings and loans organisations, made possible by the UKAM project.
It's not about a decision, it's about a search. It's whatever food we have on that day’
Elisa Nyanut Abraham
Okayne Madut, who was born and grew up in Nyikiji, is one of the health training facilitators who has received training from project partner HARD.
Here he displays his counselling cards which he uses to share information with the women’s group from Nyikiji. In this instance, the information is on breastfeeding as well as guidance on how new born babies should be breast-fed and when they should be brought onto solids.
Akur has been running a restaurant in a small town called Ariath in the northern district of Aweil for just over a year. She serves dry and fresh fish, fried meats, chicken and vegetables to mostly to business traders and plus passers-by.
‘This business helps me a lot. I use part of the income money to feed my children and to cover their schooling and I save the large portion of the income in order to run the business’.
Akur does her best to make sure the restaurant and the food she serves is hygienic.
‘First, when I come here at my work place, I would sweep the place clean and around the restaurant. As for the meat, it has to be washed thoroughly and cooked properly to avoid contamination'.
When asked about things she knows to do to ensure that the restaurant is hygienic, she also mentions the importance of cooking utensils being clean. However she says that when the restaurant is bust, there can be a rush to wash the limited utensils they have, and there is a risk of them not being sufficiently clean. Other challenges include lack of access to clean water and washing soaps.
Business owners like Akur will receive training and support through the UKAM project, to handle food hygienically as well as getting access to a wider range if nutritious foods.
‘I would like to include some food types such as chicken meats (stew and fried), fish, eggs and fried meats. I hope to receive knowledge on how to make food preparation and ways on how to improve my business to make it successful’
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