Akon* is an 8-month-old baby girl living with her parents in Mangok Tong village in Akon North, a remote region in Warrap State. Their village has been continuously hit by floods leaving the few crops they’d managed to harvest as well as their main source of livelihood in tatters. Akon’s family are not alone. Hundreds of other families in the region suffer at the hands of crippling food shortages, poor health services, lack of safe drinking water and inadequate hygiene and sanitation facilities. The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that ensued has only exacerbated existing problems unaided by a lack of humanitarian assistance that has plagued communities for months.

Dorcas, as part of a nutrition project – funded by UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) and active since 2015 – remains committed to the needs of the most vulnerable people in this hard-to-reach region. Despite community screening activities being restricted due to the new COVID-19 nutrition guidelines, Akon’s illness was detected early and he was quickly referred to the Dorcas Mayen Pajok Stabilisation Centre by one of our Community Nutrition Volunteers.

During the assessment, Akon was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition showing symptoms including pneumonia, diarrhoea and vomiting. Admitted to the centre in November 2020, Akon was very weak. She could not be breast fed with her weight – 4.4kg with a MUAC** of just 7.8 cm – revealing the severity of her condition. Akon’s treatment commenced immediately with support from the Nurse and nutrition staff at the facility. She received a course of medicines and nutritional support until her symptoms subsided helping her gain weight and a healthy appetite. On 3 December, not even a month later, Akon was discharged from the centre and transferred to the Mayen Pajok Outpatient Therapeutic Program for further support to aid her recovery. Here, she was able to regain strength and reach a healthy weight – 5.6kg with a MUAC of 10.6cm.

“My daughter is smiling again!”

“Once my daughter has fully recovered, we will leave our home and migrate to another highland village to escape the floods because all our crops were destroyed and we have nothing to survive on”, says Athuai, Akon’s father.

Achol Garang, Akon’s mother shares this sentiment. “I can’t thank Dorcas enough for taking care of my child and supporting us with sorghum, beans and oil for food during our stay in the hospital. Now, my child bit-by-bit can play and smile again – just like every other child. Thanks be to God!”

Story Compiled by: Peter Marin & Mayom Garang @Nutrition, 2020

* Akon: Is a name given to a girl in Dinka tribe language in South Sudan
** MUAC: Mid Upper Arm Circumference, body measurement use to assess the nutritional status of an individual