AWEIL, SOUTH SUDAN
— Awut Mayar has brought her baby to the nutrition center at Aweil Civil Hospital.
“My baby has been suffering from chest pain and diarrhea for a long time," she says.
"I was advised to come here, to the feeding center. I also tried to seek treatment at a pharmacy but the medicine did not work.”
Nearby, Aliai Madhieu says her infant son is doing much better since she brought him to the feeding center.
"The doctors have been treating my baby with Plumpy'Nut and other medicines and now I am seeing changes in the baby. He can now play and shows signs of better health. He had high fever and abdominal pain before but now, he seems better," she says.
Plumpy'Nut is a ready-to-use therapeutic food made of peanuts, sugar, vegetable fat and skimmed milk, and enriched with vitamins and minerals. It can be consumed straight from the packet and is designed to treat severe acute malnutrition in children and adults.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to comment, an aid worker acknowledged that there has been a spike in malnutrition cases in Aweil South County, in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. A survey conducted jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations' Children's Fund (UNICEF) found that 55 percent of children in the state below the age of five are malnourished, the aid worker said.
The Director General at the Northern Bahr al Gazal state health ministry, Riing Riing, blamed the malnutrition problem on poverty and on flooding that wiped out many crops.
"Even those people who have already cultivated most of their productions have [seen it] destroyed" by flooding, Riing said.
Northern Bahr el Ghazal is the most rural state in South Sudan, with more than nine in 10 residents living outside cities, according to South Sudan's National Bureau of Statistics.
It is also the state with the highest poverty rate: 76 percent of residents live in poverty, according to statistics released by the NBS in 2011.
One in five residents of the state are under the age of five, and more than half are under 18.