Tracking Malnutrition and Hunger in South Sudan

In July, the Aid for Africa blog highlighted Jacqueline Lauer, the Aid for Africa Endowment Scholar at Tufts University’s Friedman School. While conducting research this summer in South Sudan with Action Against Hunger, Lauer was trying to identify factors that contribute to malnutrition in two rural counties of Warrap State, some of the most underdeveloped areas of this young country. She recently returned to Boston to present her findings.

Lauer lived in the region from late May through early August, conducting household surveys of family and community food habits. With the help of local translators she talked with almost 150 women individually and conducted about 20 focus groups of six to eight women in each. “I found it interesting that the women were more forthcoming in groups, than one-on-one,” Lauer said. “We were able to talk about food taboos and cultural beliefs openly.”

Lauer said that during the “hunger season” — which occurs from May through August, the months immediately before the harvest — rains are heavy, and food supplies are generally lower. During this period, people depend more on wild foods to supplement their diets, but children are less at risk because cow’s milk is available for them.   “After planting, the cattle are moved from the villages to areas with more grazing area and water,” Lauer said. It is during these dry-season months, March through May, that children are most vulnerable to malnutrition, possibly because children do not have access to milk.

The communities in these rural areas of South Sudan historically were pastoralists, Lauer said. Decades of war have made them more sedentary but still kept men away from their homes. As a result women have been doing much of the farming. “Men still see their role as protector. As peace continues, they will hopefully start laying down their arms and picking up plows,” she said.

According to Lauer, better seeds, plows and fertilizers will be critical to increasing harvests and reducing food insecurity during the hunger season. “It might also be good practice to talk with families about leaving a cow or two behind to supplement the diets of children during the months following planting,” she said.

Lauer is now working as a research assistant at Feinstein International Center, a financial supporter of the Warrap project, to research livelihoods and conflict in the Jonglei region of South Sudan. “I am just helping with literature review at this point, but I wouldn’t mind following up with work on the ground,” she said. “I’d love the chance to go back.”

Aid for Africa believes that development efforts must be studied and improved if they are going to be effective. The Aid for Africa Endowment for Food and Sustainable Agriculture supports graduate students who seek to advance the well-being of people in Africa through scientific research.

Aid for Africa is an alliance of 85 U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners who help children, families, and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Aid for Africas grassroots programs focus on health, education, economic development, arts & culture, conservation, and wildlife protection in Africa.

Photo credit: Aid for Africa


Frances Darcy
Frances Darcy4 years ago

Noted. I agree with NICKY M

Elizabeth F.
Elizabeth F4 years ago


Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you Aid For Africa, for Sharing this!

Antonio Calabria

Feed these kids and their parents. Educate about birth control.

Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago

So sad.


This really is very good information as it is very practical and offers up one or two quite easy solutions. If ONLY governments would stop wasting countless billions on non-essentials and even cutting funding to countries like this!!!! ( Quite disgusting!!) Then we could send so many more skilled workers out to teach the people how to produce more food and to imlement ideas as to how to survive those lean months. It will take a lot of work to make the men change their traditional role and 'take up the plow' which would help the problem, but that is where we need funding to send more teachers out to teach some of the local people how to teach others to learn the new farming skills and to have the infomration they need to be able to see that they need to make that change. If only we could just send them out a portion of the wasted food that we, in comparitively rich and spoiled countries, throw away every day. ( by "we' I don't mean us Care 2 ers of course, as I am sure we have no wasted food!!!)

David Nuttle
David Nuttle4 years ago

Deforestation, desertification, environmental pollution, global warming, water shortages, soil erosion, sustained conflict, and poor agricultural practices have created hunger issues for two billion of the world's seven billion people. Over 920 million of these people are reportedly living on the brink of starvation. With 1/3rd of all land being desert, dramatic solutions such as extensive counterdesertification is needed to increase food production/ food security. A recent example of a successful counterdesertification project was in the Thar Desert of NW India. My charity, NPI, has developed improved counterdesertification practices as outlined in an NPI article (

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago


Berny p.
berny p4 years ago