After a long day of weeding in the field, 28-year-old Anyik can now rest and breastfeed her one-month-old baby. In the kitchen, a pot of belila, a local dish of sorghum with beans, simmers steadily. It will be served as supper to her three other children.
Because of assistance from Plan International, this is the first time in months Anyik has not had to worry about feeding her children or keeping them safe.
Originally from South Sudan’s Jonglei State, she is one of 175,000 internally displaced people who have settled in Awerial County in the country’s Lakes State.
Once wealthy farmers, she and her husband were prevented from harvesting their crops by the conflict ravaging South Sudan.
“Our cows were raided and houses were burned,” she said, recalling the day an armed gang attacked her village. “I escaped the guns by hiding myself and my children in a boat for four hours, then walking for three more hours until we got to Awerial.”
“We left everything,” she said. “All I could carry were my children.”
In addition to armed conflict, drought has been plaguing much of South Sudan, forcing vast swathes of its population to rely on humanitarian aid. Anyik is one of 8,600 people receiving food aid from a partnership between Plan and the World Food Programme.
“Since we settled here, there has been no rain,” she said. “The food rations we are now getting from Plan are all we have.”
The villagers used to receive enough food to last them an entire month, but the influx of internally displaced people and increasing food needs have meant supplies are stretched thin. Families now each receive half a month’s supply of food.
“It is much better than nothing,” said Anyik. “It used to terrify me to see my children wailing with hunger in the night. For 15 days, I have a guaranteed supply of food. The rest of the time, I dig for wild fruits and my husband brings fish and water lilies. We live each day as it comes.”
Now that the rainy season has begun, Anyik is starting to plant some of the grains she has received from Plan in the hope that she will reap a good harvest this year. She wants to sell her crops to raise enough income to send her oldest daughter to school.
Anyik is not educated herself, but she has ambitious plans for her children. Her oldest son is already in primary school, and the temporary learning center Plan is constructing for 3-6 year olds provides hope that her youngest children will soon be able to secure their right to an education, too.
“I look forward to enrolling my youngest daughter there,” she said.