Famine paints an unspeakable picture: Families desperate for food, children dying of hunger, an urgent need for life-saving aid. The recent declaration of famine in South Sudan reveals the tragic consequences of war — and how the gradual collapse of a country can drive people into starvation. WFP USA's M.J. Altman talks to Rose Ogola, a World Vision staffer in South Sudan, and Challiss McDonough, a World Food Programme staffer, about the human toll of famine, what’s at stake for the world’s youngest nation and what you can do today to help save the lives of innocent children.
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Rose Ogola is a World Vision staffer stationed in Juba, South Sudan. When she visited a health clinic three days after famine was declared in the world’s youngest country, she recalls meeting a mother of four named Lona struggling to feed herself or her children.
Then WFP staffer Rose Ogola helps 18 month old Onrika Nawet drink some water in Turkana, Kenya. Photo: WFP/Rein Skullerud
“What pulled my heart strings the most was seeing these children trying to breastfeed from their mother. And clearly, there was very little if any milk that was coming out. Because they kept crying and trying to pull and pull. And finally, they just abandoned. They stopped trying to suckle and instead they were crying. And for me, it really haunted me even when I came home. Because I was trying to put myself in Lona’s shoes, as a mother. And that helplessness, it was really sad.” – Rose Ogola
Challiss McDonough, a WFP staffer, first saw the impact of famine in Somalia in 2011, where more than 1 million people perished from hunger during the Horn of Africa crisis. It was the kind of experience that she thought would never befall South Sudan at the time of the country’s independence vote that same year in 2011.
WFP Regional Public Information Officer Challiss McDonough in the Rumbek airport.
“We were, as WFP, working on a lot of stuff to help them develop their agricultural potential. It has the soil and the water resources that could make it a breadbasket for the region. And then at the end of 2013, this conflict broke out and it has gradually spread and worsened and created a humanitarian catastrophe that I think nobody wants to see anywhere, and it’s particularly heartbreaking coming so soon after this sort of very optimistic time.” – Challiss McDonough