Sending out an SOS to the World


“If nothing happens, we’re all going to die of hunger”, Mary Saiman (33) says. Mary is the mother of six. Fortunately her two year old daughter Toma, is too young to understand what her mother is talking about.

“The children will die first, and then the rest of us”.

Try to put yourself in Mary’s situation. She and 125,000 others are living in four refugee camps totally dependent on food aid that stopped coming regularly. We are in Maban County, in the north-eastern corner of South Sudan. The refugees here are from Blue Nile State in Sudan. People up there are fighting Sudanese government troops to get more autonomy, and the civilians have moved down to South Sudan to get away from the war. When the civil war in South Sudan started, the refugees in Maban suddenly found themselves surrounded by war. The fighting still went on, up north in Blue Nile, and then the fights between the South Sudanese Dinka and Nuer people, to the west and south left the refugees with only one option to escape war: to flee east to Ethiopia, where the camps are even worse off than here in Maban.

Confused? In case you are not the only one. Find a map online, and have that page open while you read on. It is World Food Program (WFP) that’s in charge of food distribution. They usually truck the food in from other parts of South Sudan or Ethiopia, but as South Sudanese rebels have started to attack the food convoys, the umbilical cord is cut.

“We are surviving of leaves we pick from the trees and boil”, Mary tells us. It makes a bitter mash that keeps the hunger away for a while, but everyone knows that the feeling won’t last. Mary has been selling off pots and pans to try to get money for food, but the few South Sudanese pounds she made are long gone.

According to WFP the standard ration for a refugee is 2,200 calories a day, the average distributed in March was 300!

Avril Benoit, the field coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders in Doro camp, Maban fears the situation will worsen. “The malnutrition crisis caused by the war is hitting huge swaths South Sudan, and so the WFP is struggling to feed other parts of the country,” she says. “This makes the prospects for feeding the refugees in Maban even more desperate.”

Mary doesn’t care much about politics. She only wishes to be able to feed her six children, a wish that might prove very difficult, or even impossible to fulfil.


9 Responses to “Sending out an SOS to the World”

  1. […] nothing but escalate the famine crisis in this part of the world. Øystein Mikalsen continues his reporting from South […]

  2. How helpless I am, and know that I, and all, must step up. Time for me, and all, to find that way to assist. Don’t know what I will do yet, but know that I will find my part and do it. Thanks for sharing.

  3. most of us blow at least twenty dollars each week on silly unimportant items (manicure,,, cervesas..a mark-down sale item we couldn’t resist…[more sets o christmas lights.. or easter candy or picnic plasticwear for summer…) why can’t we discipline ourselves to pay it forward to those who haven’t had the education, the birth into a better life, who are hungry?

    again, thank you, and maybe just maybe our numbed masses will awaken. i’ve passed this on to proactive friends.

  4. Thanks for this dramatic post. Not sure what can I do…I’ll think about…

  5. Thank you so much for the much needed awareness.

  6. It’s so hard to hear that aid isn’t reaching those who need it so badly. I have such respect for Doctors Without Borders and know the difference they can make in these war torn countries. I thank you for the awareness you’re spreading and think it’s really additionally upsetting that these stories get so little public airplay. You encourage me to dig a little deeper to better understand the plight of a mother just trying to feed her children. Leaves? How tragic.

  7. Very well written post…sad, and pushing for action that is not just necessary but past due.

  8. Thaddeus Says:

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    I’ll bookmark your weblog and check again here regularly.
    I am relatively certain I’ll be told lots of new stuff
    right right here! Good luck for the next!

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