Nakuru, South Sudan, says she doesn’t want to go to school.

It’s not that she doesn’t want to work or to learn to read and write, though. The problem is, if Nakuru were going to school all day, who would provide and care for her four younger siblings?

Both Nakuru’s parents have died, leaving her at the helm of a child-headed household.

Nakuru wants to be able to plant okra and sorghum to feed her younger siblings some of the nutrients they need—but can’t, due to drought. Nothing will grow.

“The drought has made life harder,” she says.

On top of that, the ongoing conflict has also disrupted agricultural production, created widespread displacement and forced farmers off their land.

Managing to get enough food to eat the next day is a full-time struggle for a young girl like Nakuru. Going to bed hungry is a normal occurrence.

According to UNICEF, more than one million children in South Sudan are acutely malnourished, including 276,000 children who are also severely malnourished, meaning they are “at imminent risk of death,” according to Justin Forsyth, deputy executive director of UNICEF.

For Foodgrains Bank international program director Barbara Macdonald, the impact so many children suffering from malnutrition may have on the future wellbeing of their country is substantial.

“Malnutrition isn’t something young children recover from years later,” she says.  “A lack of vitamins and minerals at a young age will stay with children their entire lives. It affects their brain development, and even their ability to interact with their community and earn a living.”

Responding to the urgent needs quickly is critical, she adds.

“This conflict will stay with South Sudan years after the war ends in many ways, but particularly in a generation of children deprived of proper nutrients at key times in their life,” says Macdonald.

Fortunately, Nakuru and her siblings are some of the 13,500 people receiving emergency food rations through a project of Foodgrains Bank member ADRA Canada.

The project, which is implemented locally by ADRA South Sudan, is providing sorghum, beans, oil and salt to people affected by conflict in the region of Kapoeta.

The food will help the family get by until Nakuru can plant again. Not only will it nourish the children’s bodies, but it will let them know they are not forgotten.

Other Foodgrains Bank members are responding to the need in South Sudan as well.

–Amanda Thorsteinsson, Canadian Foodgrains Bank