Samaritan’s Purse is helping save lives at the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan by treating and preventing malnutrition in starving children
Treating malnourished children isn’t easy. There is a careful balance that must be achieved when giving nourishment to a body that has been starved and thirsty for so long. Giving food and water too quickly can cause the body to go into shock. Giving it too slowly can cause the child not to recover as soon as he or she should.
The refugee camp at Yida, South Sudan, has become home to tens of thousands of people fleeing the violence in the Sudanese states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Among them are about 14,000 children under 5 years old. At best, they arrive hungry after walking for days without food or water. At worst, they suffer from severe, life-threatening malnutrition.
With so many children, and more arriving each day, critical cases can slip between the cracks. However, at the nutrition center operated by Samaritan’s Purse, intense observation, intervention, and compassionate care is saving lives.
It can be hard to predict what direction these cases will take. A child who seems stable can get a bout of diarrhea and slip suddenly into critical condition. Mothers sometimes bring their children to the center when it is nearly too late to save them. The chance of food being diverted from the sick child to his or her hungry siblings is high.
Another challenge is keeping the center stocked with medicine and other necessities. Yida is now an island surrounded by swamp, leaving airplanes as the only method of bringing supplies into the camp. It takes careful planning, costly logistical efforts, and availability of resources to keep the nutrition program adequately stocked.
Yet despite all of this, lives are saved every day through the care at the nutrition center and through community mobilization and education programs that teach mothers how to prevent malnutrition in their children.
“Sometimes kids come to us dead. Yet later they live,” said a member of our national staff.
One example of this is Asia and Rabak Mobark, twins who were lifeless and starved when they came out of the Nuba Mountains to the camp in May. Their thin bodies were hardly visible under the sheets of their beds in the stabilization center. However, God used the Samaritan’s Purse staff to defeat all of the challenges, and in August, the twins were healthy and at an appropriate weight.
Rabak (pictured at top of the article and at left) and Asia are now playing happily with their sisters. Instead of being stiff and feeling like skeletons, they are soft and chubby as babies should be. The family spoke of their happiness at not only finding Samaritan’s Purse when they arrived in Yida, but also when the twins were brought back from the brink of death.
They are evidence of how God is working in Yida. Instead of mourning the death of a child entirely too early as many hungry Nuban families have done, this family rejoiced to have their children home and healthy.