Two years ago, when Agawol's youngest daughter fell sick, she was worried, but sadly, not surprised. She lives in Yargot, South Sudan – an area that has suffered from many years of civil conflict. Agawol’s harvest had been ruined and food prices were high. Boiled leaves were the only thing they had to eat.
“My child cried and cried, but I had nothing else to feed her,” says Agawol. Desperate, she took her daughter to the nearest health center, where Action Against Hunger staff diagnosed her with acute malnutrition.
She was given a special peanut paste called Plumpy’Nut, a ready-to-use therapeutic food full of all the calories and nutrients needed to restore the health of malnourished children. Our team admitted the little girl into our outpatient program, and Agawol came weekly to pick up the treatment and have her daughter’s health and nutrition status checked.
“I saw my child gaining weight until she was discharged one month later,” says Agawol. As her daughter got better, Agawol started volunteering at the center, learning to spot the warning signs of malnutrition.
Her child is healthy now, but Agawol still helps her neighbors check on their children’s health. Here’s what a typical day of volunteering looks like:
Agawol wakes up with dawn’s first light. Her six children sleep around her, lying on a mat on the floor of the family’s hut, known as a tukul. Little by little, the older children wake up, while the little ones sleep on for a little while longer.
Agawol checks on her sorghum plants (a type of grain), making sure that animals have not stepped on the crop overnight. She walks to the well with her oldest son to collect water.
The whole family is awake. Agawol uses a plastic cup to wash three of her children, and then washes herself.
Two children head to school, while her older daughter stays home to care for her little brothers and the family’s crops.
Agawol leaves her house, armed with a pen and special measuring tape called a mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) band, and walks to her neighbors’ homes. First, she talks with the parents and shares her daughter’s story. Then, if they agree, she screens the children for malnutrition. She refers all children with signs of malnutrition to Action Against Hunger’s nutrition program at the nearest health center.
Agawol returns home, changes clothes, and goes to the forest to collect firewood. She cuts tree branches with an axe and puts the wood in a little pile.
After she collects enough, Agawol ties up the firewood in a bundle and places it, perfectly balanced, on her head. She heads to the village market, which is full of wooden stalls and smells of dirt, dust, and spices. The largest stall sells detergent and supplies to make soap and candles. Another sells wood and peanuts, another only sells onions, another has bags of sugar and straw brushes. There is no fresh produce sold here.
Agawol goes straight to the wood post. She greets the people at the stall and puts her load on the ground. A woman examines the merchandise and then buys it from her. With the money earned, Agawol buys milk and peanut powder. She smiles. Her family will eat tonight.
Agawol walks home on dirt roads, happy with her sale.
Agawol grinds sorghum in a wood mortar, lights a fire, and begins to prepare asida, a kind of mashed stew made with sorghum and boiling water.
Everyone eats inside the hut, sitting on the floor.
The sun goes down. The family huddles together and goes to sleep.
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