Improving the nutrition welfare of children in Jonglei State

By John Alier

 The Resilience and Food Security program (RFSP) has been helping widows and other vulnerable women in Jonglei State with its small ruminant revolving credit program, restoring their human dignity, hope and pride and in the process making them more resilient. 

Vulnerable women in the targeted communities receive three goats or sheep, of which two are female and one male, on a credit basis from RFSP. Once these goats give birth, the women then repay the animals back to RFSP through the young ones. RFSP then passes the livestock to the next batch of vulnerable women.  

Although many people were affected by the 2013 crisis, women headed households suffered even more. Their hopes were dashed by the fighting and many lost any optimism they had about the future and that of their children. These women are now being empowered once again by RFSP restocking exercise and their livelihoods are now being restored. 

Rhoda Abiar Achiek got married when she was 18 years of age. Together with her husband, they struggled to make ends meet but they could survive and earn a living supporting each other. Unfortunately, her husband died when she was expecting her first child, a baby boy.  

Abiar gave birth to her first child in a remote area, during the peak hunger season in January 2013. Getting food was difficult for her and there was nobody to help as everyone struggled to survive in the islands along the River Nile. She had no parents to help her either. Abiar did not produce enough breast milk for her child owing to the food stress. Although the child survived, her life fell apart and her dreams of having a prosperous family were marred.    


Caption: Goats’ milk has given little children this one an easy means of survival as they can no longer suffer hunger and rampant malnutrition in Jonglei state: photo by John Alier

In July 2015, however life turned for the better when she was targeted and registered as one of the beneficiaries of the livestock restocking program under the Jonglei Food Security program (JFSP). This happened two years after rebels looted her village of Pakon in Bor County during the December 2013 crisis.  

“It was in the evening when I returned from the water point, I found the chief and my brother-in-law waiting for me at home. My heart beat faster fearing what the big man wanted to say,” Abiar says.  

She still recalls the statement the chief said, “Abiar, you are very luck. CRS is now looking for vulnerable women like you to be given some goats that they will keep for 12 months, after which you give back 3 young goats share to another person from this village. It’s like a loan that is paid with no interest rate charged. Would you like that?” 


As widow and taking care of children, she did not have any means of feeding them. She saw this as an opportunity especially for her children who desperately needed milk. Goat milk is an essential component of children’s nutrition in Jonglei State. She accepted the offer without hesitation. Abiar built a small shelter in which she kept the three goats she received from the livestock fair.  

“… I looked after the goats properly so that the young ones are not attacked by monkeys and foxes. In a day five goats produce approximately one-and half to two liters of milk. At this point, it was like the flip of a coin . . ..  Some neighbors whom I used to ask milk from started coming to me for assistance with milk,” she says. 

By December 2016, Abiar had 13 goats from which she paid three to the next beneficiary, another vulnerable widow affected by the 2013 crisis. Four of the goats are lactating and are a source of milk for her children.   

“Goat’s milk is even better than cow’s milk. It is easy to digest and does well for children than cow’s milk,” she says.  

She is now planning to sell some of her goats and buy a cow for added security. Having goats and cows is a sign of social security. Since her husband passed away in 2012, she is no long just a woman, but now an important person in the community.  

“This program has empowered women by enabling them to own livestock like goats. I have voice over what they should be used for and when, nobody can come and take a male goat and use it for marriage or anything without my approval. When there is a meeting in the community, I am now asked to attend and contribute just like other people,” she continues.  

From June 2015 to February 2017, the program reached 725 women headed households with 1,932 goats, through the livestock restocking program in nine operational counties of Jonglei state. In addition to the livestock restocking program, Abiar is a vegetable farmer also supported by RFSP with seeds and tools and farming expertise. Her vegetable garden yields an average of 9,000 South Sudan pounds (USD75.00) income every month.