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Friday, April 20, 2012

War Orphans

This is Christobal, who is an orphan of war from South Sudan. His parents were not shot, but rather the disabling effect of war on the entire society took them from Christobal. And almost took his life, too. And may still.

He was delivered into our care at Kijabe this week by two Kenyans who work for an American-funded orphan-care NGO, and a South Sudanese nurse. His mother died in the process of giving birth to him in December, from uncontrolled bleeding. Post-partum hemorrhage should not be taking mothers' lives in 2012, but in areas where war and displacement and poverty prevent mothers from accessing reasonable care, it still does. A teenage girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth in the next decade than to finish high school. Christobal's father abandoned the family when his wife died. So the children were brought to an orphanage, where his milk-powder formula was mixed too dilute, and the caretaker was unable to adequately protect and nurture him. A few months later he was stick-thin, irritable, shrunken. His bulky sweater hides a wasted body. He's starving.

Kijabe is a long journey from South Sudan, just for food. But the Kenyans who were in charge of the project did what they would do for their own kids--brought him to a place they know and trust. Severe Acute Malnutrition is a serious illness with a very high mortality rate. We work hard to save at least 90% of kids in this condition, but in many hospitals his chance of survival is more like 75% or even less. And his recovery will be long and fraught with difficulties.

Not the least of which is that war is once again threatening between Sudan and South Sudan. Here is a clip from today's news: President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan vowed on Wednesday to “liberate” South Sudan from its governing party, a sharp escalation of rhetoric after fierce border clashes. There has been growing alarm over the worst violence since South Sudan split from Sudan to become an independent country in July under the terms of a 2005 peace settlement ending a civil war. South Sudan last week seized Heglig, a contested oil-producing region in the savanna that is known as Panthou in the south, prompting Sudan’s Parliament to brand South Sudan an “enemy” on Monday and to call its swift recapture. When world leaders can not agree on borders, sharing of resources, or mechanisms for dialogue, then the most vulnerable suffer. Babies like Christobal will lose their lives by the thousands, silently, even as dozens of combatants clash and die more publicly.

Pray for our team in Mundri, which is far from the fighting, but still in a country affected by war. And pray for Christobal, and the many caring people and organizations who are trying to build a functional country out of the ruins of decades of war. Pray that his generation would be the last to be devastated by this conflict.

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