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Drinking flood water to survive

Teenage mother Achol in South Sudan fights the impact of climate change daily.

Achol is only seventeen but has endured more than many girls will in their lifetimes.

As a teenage mother living in a country crippled by conflict, it was already a challenge to stay in school. Now, since floods destroyed her village, it’s become impossible.

We met Achol in Tonj in northern South Sudan, a country that is one of the most vulnerable to climate change in the world.

The added complexities of almost a decade of conflict, rising food costs and the impact of COVID-19 means that the lives of many children hang in the balance.

Before the floods, Achol was just managing to scrape by.

She was attending a local school and caring for her two-year-old son Kuech, while living with her elderly mother.

That was, until everything changed in an instant.

“It was terrible,” she says.

“We were thinking that this was normal rain, but then it was a flood and it was even getting inside the house. I was afraid."

"My child was really afraid and he was crying when he saw the water coming.”

Picking up her son and taking her mother’s hand, she waded through water to find higher ground. But things took a turn for the worse when Kuech got sick.

“Never in my life have I experienced a flood like this,” says Achol.

“I decided to leave the area, but when my child got ill I started to worry.”

“If {World Vision] didn’t give my child the supplements, the situation would’ve been very bad. My child would’ve died.”

With no access to fresh food or water, Kuech was drinking contaminated flood water and soon became critically sick. 

“Due to the flood, we were drinking that same flood water,” explains Achol, who without access to fresh food or water, had no other option.

When Achol finally reached World Vision’s health centre, Kuech was in critical condition.

“If they didn’t give my child the supplements the situation would’ve been very bad,” she says.

“My child would’ve died.”

Achol’s situation isn’t an isolated event. Fuelled by the deadly combination of climate change, conflict and economic crisis, the rate of malnutrition among young children is escalating.

It’s estimated that more than 7 million people in South Sudan are facing severe hunger and require urgent food assistance.

That’s about 60% of the population and includes 1.4 million children under the age of five who are acutely malnourished.

With the right support, Kuech was able to make a full recovery.

And after staying in a temporary shelter nearby, Achol made the trek home in hopes that the flood had decreased.

But, home is not as it was before.

Here, Achol is dealing with caring for both her mother and her son, while also rebuilding after the damage.

“I can’t manage to take care of the family and also go to school,” she explains.

“That’s why I decided to drop out.”

For Achol, leaving school feels like the only option she has in the face of ongoing crisis. She hopes to return in the future.

“The way I was living before I felt comfortable, but when it changed abruptly it was so bad and it gave me a lot of stress,” she concludes.

“I hope that one day the situation will go back to normal and my life will change again for the better.”

By joining Childhood Rescue, you can help families like Achol and Kuech receive the resources they need to survive, recover and build a future in the world’s toughest places.

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