How an entire community is forced to feed from a tree in famine-hit South Sudan

Source: Plan International - Wed, 12 Apr 2017 15:30 PM
Author: Plan International
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Around 4.9 million people - more than 40 percent of the population - are urgently in need of food in South Sudan as parts of the country reel from the first famine declared globally in six years. Across vast swathes of parched land, communities displaced by conflict and food crisis are struggling to survive. In many instances it is mostly women and children left behind as men go off in search of new pastures for livestock to graze or become involved in armed conflict.

Child rights and humanitarian organisation Plan International is working in the Lakes State, Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei to provide life-saving food, nutrition and livelihood interventions including agricultural tools and fishing kits to stop children and women from dying of starvation or suffering malnutrition.

  • In a small village in Rumbek, Lakes State, a group of 46 internally displaced women and children led by a woman named Margaret Mabor is being forced to rely on a tree known locally as the Laluq, or Lalob tree, as their main source of food.

  • They became reliant on the tree to survive after moving to the area from their home in the village of Wunlu, Rumbek East, after their livestock was stolen in cattle raids and the drought caused their crops to dry up.

  • “Life became very hard: we didn’t have anything for cooking, nothing to eat, no cereal crops and nothing for sleeping on so we left,” says Mabor. “Since we’ve been here at the camp, we’ve been eating seeds from the Lalob fruit to survive”.

  • The fruit is first picked from the Laluq tree and then dried in the sun. The women use tools to crack it open, revealing the pit which can be cooked and eaten.

  • They also preserve the fruit by rubbing it in ash, a technique that has been passed down through the generations. The fruit is then cooked to make porridge, which may be the only meal women and children eat all day.

  • In March alone, Plan International distributed food to 8,500 people in Lakes State, mostly children aged between six and 17, and provided school meals for 15,500 children as part of its Food for Education programme.

  • Mabor and her community don’t know when their situation will improve. For now, their hopes rest with the tree.

  • “No one has died of hunger here,” she says. The tree has kept every one of them alive.

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