South Sudan

Famine is over, but people are still eating leaves

Famine has officially ended in South Sudan thanks to a surge in humanitarian aid. Yet, the number of people at risk of starvation in the country has increased. Meagre harvests and soaring food prices are being compounded by an ongoing conflict, which began more than three years ago.

Tearfund and our partners are continuing to respond, working hard to tackle the food crisis. The need is still great and there are many more people we can reach. Across East Africa, 23 million people are in need of food assistance.

When I visited South Sudan recently, I met a lady who told me how hard life is for her and her young family.

Grace’s story

Grace* sits outside her house – waiting. She’s hungry, bereft, but trusting in God.

Her family are now only eating one meal a day – Grace picks leaves from the cassava and cooks them with water and a little salt. ‘This makes me unhappy because the family misses a lot of basic needs. The children are not eating well. Once a day? It is not supposed to be like this.’

The 46-year-old mother from Juba used to be able to buy and sell a little in the market and to add something small to the family income. But the conflict in South Sudan means very little food can be cultivated locally. Prices in the markets have sky-rocketed.

Her husband Samba has a job but salaries are paid erratically. He was paid at Christmas but hasn’t seen a salary since. The entire household depends on him as no-one else works, they have no livestock and are unable to cultivate any land.

‘That is now the case with most of the women here,’ she says. ‘They're just sitting – they cannot afford to do business because of this situation.’

The wait

As well as Grace and Samba and their six children, there are three other extended family members in the household. That’s 11 people relying on a single salary that is not coming in.

‘We don't know even the reason,’ says Grace. ‘They say the money's coming but it never does. If my husband does not get anything, the children must go without anything. The little ones are complaining, because they want to go to school but there is no money for fees or books. As a mother, the children come and ask for food – of course they want to eat – but there is no food. I’m really worried what will happen next if it continues like this.

‘My trust is in God because without God you cannot live.’

Hopes and dreams

She once dreamed of having enough money to open a small shop and was part of a savings group in the local church which enabled her to save some money. But now Grace has had to spend all her savings on her family’s basic needs. Previously even a small loan enabled women like her to start a business and generate some income, but now these loans are not sufficient.

Tearfund partner Africa Inland Church (AIC), is reaching out to people like Grace – providing food assistance in the Juba area and supporting long-term development.

John Ladu, AIC’s Executive Director, explains why they do what they do: ‘As a church we offer the spiritual side as well as providing for people’s physical needs. Combining the two gives hope. There are people who feel life is hopeless, that tomorrow they may not make it, but when we help them they are encouraged and their lives are sustained.’

He adds how grateful he is for the financial help from Tearfund supporters in the UK which helps them make an impact in this crisis:

‘The communities right now, they are in need. As a church what we collect is not enough to reach all our community, but with the support that we get from Tearfund it is enabling us to cover a larger number of people.’

Tearfund supporters have contributed over £4 million to the East Africa Crisis Appeal, for people like Grace and her family. Thank you for all your support.

*Name changed to protect identity


  • Pray for Grace’s family and others who face such challenges in finding a sustainable income and food to eat.

  • Pray for much-needed peace to come in South Sudan – that the people of this nation would be able to restore their hopes and dreams.

  • Thank God for the generous support of Tearfund supporters who have given so much to the East Africa Crisis Appeal, and pray the funds would help those most in need.