Mary’s Meals continues to reach children in war-torn South Sudan

Against all odds: Mary's Meals is delivering nutritious and much-needed school meals to children amidst the civil war in South Sudan.

Back to all stories | Posted on 09/06/16 in Blog

More than half of the children of South Sudan are not in school; this is the highest proportion in any country in the world in a conflict zone, according to the UN. During 2016, an estimated 237,000 children are predicted to suffer from severe acute malnutrition in South Sudan and 2.8 million people are severely food insecure. In some areas, thousands of people are currently facing famine. It is clear that Mary’s Meals is needed here more than ever.

Since the civil war broke out over two years ago, more than 800 schools have been demolished and more than 400,000 children have had to abandon their classrooms. Only one in ten South Sudanese students who enter school finish primary education amid a shortage of facilities and trained teachers.
The statistics speak for themselves and the future of a whole generation of children of the world’s newest country is at risk. Despite this, Mary’s Meals has – throughout the civil war – been delivering nutritious and much-needed school meals to 14,000 children across 33 schools in the Lakes State region of South Sudan through our partner, the Diocese of Rumbek. These meals have played a vital part in keeping the schools open and ensuring that the children get at least one meal each school day, allowing them to concentrate and keep learning.

People are faced with the unavailability of food and exorbitant prices in local markets caused by the depreciation of the South Sudanese Pound and a restricted supply of foreign exchange. This means households are struggling to access food in local markets; markets which they are hugely dependent on. As a result Mary’s Meals has been importing food to South Sudan through a food supplier based in Uganda. Getting the food for the school meals across the border to Rumbek has been challenging with the food convoys facing intermittent road blocks and the risk of attacks by local clans. 

Once the food arrives in Rumbek our partner distributes the food to the different mission areas across the Diocese. They run the risk of getting caught up in road ambushes, revenge killings and must negotiate near-impassable roads during the rainy season. 

In November last year, two schools had to close temporarily and the children were forced to hide in a nearby forest as they were caught in between inter-clan fighting. Luckily the schools were able to open again only two weeks later. 

While the formation of a transitional government last month will hopefully herald in a new period of peace, the situation in South Sudan remains both complex and volatile where no place is completely safe. Our partners however are very well trusted in the region and while operating in a very risky environment they continue their work day-in day-out. 

It is a testament to the incredible and courageous work of our partners that these 14,000 children have been able to continue their education and enjoy eating Mary’s Meals during a time of conflict.

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