Women gather around a repaired water point in South Sudan.

South Sudan: Nyalam and the Women Leading the Fight Against Hunger

By Lorjock Riak Lorjock, WASH Program Manager, Action Against Hunger, South Sudan

Nyalam Kai, a 26-year-old mother, lives with her husband and three children in Kuerdar, a village in the remote Paguir region of Fangak County, South Sudan.

When they moved back to Paguir after living in the south, Nyalam’s sister-in-law gave them the small, thatched home where they now live. With her husband disabled – he cannot walk without Nyalam’s support - she is the family’s sole breadwinner in her family.

Dependent on farming, Nyalam struggles to meet her family’s needs on just 20 square meters of land to cultivate. This past fall,  her crops of pumpkin and beans grew too slowly as she dealt with infertile land and a difficult rainy season. “I am worried about what we will eat until the next  food distribution, which happens in five months,” she says.  

Over the last few months, her youngest, 10-month-old Nyawal, has been treated for malnutrition at Action Against Hunger’s nutrition center.

In addition to providing nutrition treatment to her daughter, our teams gave Nyalam and her family a kit of hygiene supplies, including a jerry can, soap, and water purification tablets, as well as a small cash grant to build a latrine for her home. Nyalam also attended a health and hygiene education session organized by our hygiene promoters. All of this support has improved the family’s living conditions:

“My family can now wash their clothes with soap and fetch enough water with buckets. Handwashing has become a crucial habit …. My suffering has been reduced: The latrine is close enough that my husband can now reach it alone without my help. His health has improved as well. We can drink clean water and wear clean clothes.”

Nyawal noted that her children are now safer from waterborne diseases like diarrhea and cholera and says she is “delighted” that these changes in their daily habits have “rapidly transformed” their living conditions.

Nyalam’s hard work and leadership within her family have been key to making all of these changes. With less illness in the family, she also has time to tend to domestic work at home and earn extra income by transporting supplies for Action Against Hunger.

Nyalam and an Action Against Hunger Hygiene Promoter.

Photo: Action Against Hunger
South Sudan

Paguir is an extremely difficult region to work in, riddled with deep treacherous swamps and river networks. In fact, until recently, the communities here did not have access to clean water or health services – they had to make a two-hour journey to the nearest center. Last year, Action Against Hunger opened the first health and nutrition center of its kind in this area.

To transport lifesaving nutrition supplies and other necessities to our health posts, our teams hire porters. We prioritize hiring women like Nyalam for these roles to help them earn additional income in a region where women’s livelihoods are highly limited. On foot, Nyalam carries nutrition supplies across a distance of about six miles from the river to our base in Paguir. With the extra income, she buys basic food that her family could not previously afford.

Nyalam sees the impact of our nutrition services on her family, too. “My child, who is in the nutrition program, has gained weight,” she says. “I believe she will soon fully recover from sickness. Her siblings have been wishing to see her giggling and singing with them.”

Nyalam takes pride in telling the stories of her life – of her children laughing, and of her efforts to provide for them:

“They portray my suffering and steps I went through in life. I never imagined one day someone would come to listen to my story, and I always wish to keep them with me. My trust and confidence in Action Against Hunger has empowered me to reveal my heartfelt story. I am proud to be selected to represent the voices of a thousand women in Paguir today who also go through the same pain I am going through in life.”

Women are the heart of our lifesaving work in South Sudan. Action Against Hunger is bringing new livelihoods activities to this region and helping countless women like Nyalam provide nutritious food for their families.

Together, we will work to end hunger, for all women of Fangak, for good.

For Action. Against Hunger.

We save the lives of children and their families. We will never give up. Until the world is free from hunger.