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Saving lives and empowering communities in South Sudan’s remote areas: Akon’s journey from despair to hope

14 May 2024 at 19:23 | 1071 views

In the dusty outskirts of Nyamlel in Aweil West County, Northern Bahr el Gazal State, a grandmother’s desperate plea for her granddaughter’s life echoed through the corridors of a stabilization center. Akon Ayom, a 30-month-old girl, lay motionless, her body swollen from malnutrition, her spirit fading with each passing day.
Akon’s grandmother, a 70-year-old woman, had traveled through unforgiving terrain, seeking relief and healing for her precious granddaughter. From Chaleek to Warapei and then to Gokmachar, her journey was one of despair until, finally, she found herself at the doors of the Nyamlel Primary Health Care Center.

Upon arrival, hope seemed a distant dream. Akon’s condition was dire – her body was ravaged by the dual onslaught of malnutrition and measles. But within the walls of the stabilization center, a hope flickered to life, embodied by the dedicated team of healthcare workers at the facility managed by ALIGHT, an implementing partner providing treatment services.

“Thank you for saving my granddaughter’s life. We went to several health facilities, but it was not until we arrived at the Nyamlell Stabilization Center that we found the help we needed. Akon was unable to stand or walk, but your intervention dramatically improved her condition, and she can now walk on her own”, said Akuol Deng Tong, Akon’s grandmother.

Malnutrition is a major health issue for children under five in South Sudan. The country is facing several public health crises, including disease outbreaks, floods, conflict, and food insecurity, contributing to a high level of acute malnutrition (16.0%), exceeding the WHO emergency threshold (15%). The main drivers are high food insecurity, diseases, poor hygiene, inadequate maternal and childcare, and environmental sanitation services. Severe acute wasting increases the risk of death by nine times, and 10-20% of children with this condition will develop life-threatening medical complications.

Akon was suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in a struggling community. The World Health Organization (WHO) stepped in to provide comprehensive support.

“Thanks to the US Agency for Humanitarian Assistance, through the Integrated Health Response to Communities Impacted by Protracted Crisis and Acute Food Insecurity in South Sudan project, WHO is enhancing life-saving services for children battling severe acute malnutrition with medical complications in South Sudan’s stabilization centers by providing life-saving severe acute malnutrition medical kits, capacity building, monitoring, and supportive supervision for healthcare workers” said Dr Humphrey Karamagi (photo), WHO Representative for South Sudan. Together with the implementing partners, we are ensuring every child facing severe acute malnutrition with medical complications receives life-saving care, paving the way for a healthier, brighter tomorrow.

The Stabilization Centre (SC) in Nyamlell PHCC has greatly helped the community. It provides services for children with severe acute malnutrition, especially for returnees coming from Sudan who are settling in Wetwill. The Stabilization Center quickly manages cases referred from Nyamlel PHCC and Wetwill, saving the lives of many children. Mothers or caregivers of admitted children receive daily health education and counseling on specific topics. They are stimulated with toys and TV play toys for psychosocial support and positive behavior change.

Akon’s journey from the brink of death to the warmth of recovery was nothing short of miraculous. Managed by the skilled nurses trained by WHO, she received lifesaving treatments and care. The provision of essential medical kits, therapeutic feeds, and food ration from UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) ensured that no stone was left unturned in her path to healing.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) - South Sudan.

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