Despite the ongoing food crisis in South Sudan, access to medicines and nutritional supplements remain a significant issue in maintaining services. The Loreto Primary Health Care Unit (PHCU) works to provide unfettered health care access to around 900 primary school children and 240 secondary school girls enrolled at the Loreto Schools in the 2017 Academic year. The PHCU, through Sr. Penina, is committed to meeting the needs of these vulnerable children and the vulnerable community members at large and currently has programmes for emergency feeding, nutritional support, and treatment based health care that targets mostly children.
Worldwide chronic diseases remain one of the main factors that push households from poverty into deprivation. Currently, 63% of all deaths worldwide stem from non-communicable diseases, chiefly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. The cumulative economic loss to low and middle income countries from these four diseases is forecast to surpass US$7 trillion by 2025.
* Marial is a 14 year old teenage boy in South Sudan who is recovering from malnourishment, and living with prolonged respiratory problems. This is his story.
“I am in Primary Seven in the Loreto Primary Schoolin Rumbek Maker Kuei. I am 14 years of age, I have been sick since 2010. I live in Karic near Maker village (1-2 km away). The sickness is in my heart, my heart beats faster than normal, breathing is difficult, walking or doing any activity is hard,” says Marial, “it started in 2010, I was chasing a goat running trying to catch it after a long time I caught it and my sight was off because I was very tight and powerless. So, later when I went home in the evening with my goats, it happens at night that I had a cough and malaria. This cough and malaria were not treated. I then developed this chest problem.”
“I was not taken to any hospital or clinic until 2011 when it became serious; my parents took me to the pharmacy where I was injected [with medicine]. But, the sickness did not go away. Again I was taken to the state hospital in Rumbek for further treatment, and I was examined and the doctor recommended that I should be taken to Juba for further treatment. My family refused because they didn’t have any resources to do such an expensive treatment. Since the start of this sickness, coughing use to come after some months, there is a time when I can coughing until blood is discharged out of my mouth. My life at home is not easy; people are eating only one meal per day sometimes nothing.”
Most children like Marial who require nutritional support or emergency feeding are accompanied by a family member – usually a sibling, such as an older sister, who is also under/malnourished. The emergency feeding programme feeds these caretakers as well as their young wards, and advocates to the parents to allow them to attend the schools’ Accelerated Learning Program, an after school programme for over-age children to help them catch up, academically, with their peers so that they can join the normal school programme within a few short years.
“Now there is not any time I feel better, I am really very sick. I started receiving treatment in the Loreto clinic last year in October 2016. I have been coming to Sr. Penina the nurse since last year up to now during school days,” says Marial.
Marial is receiving treatment from the Loreto PHCU with special attention from Sr. Penina RN – he receives daily monitoring and nutritional supplements as well as a weekly medicinal regimen to treat the respiratory issues.
The situation could be much worse than it is in the community as both of the schools – the community based co-educational primary school and the all-girls boarding school – have school feeding programmes. In the community the youngest and most vulnerable Loreto students are eating almost exclusively through the school. Enrollment of children in recent years has been dramatically higher than in previous years as the community knows that these children will be able to rely on the Loreto sisters and their partners to provide the necessary food, medicines, and nutritional supplements required to help the children and students in the community to persevere through the crisis – to grow, laugh, and play, to have hope in the face of disaster.
* Name has been changed to preserve his human dignity.