If They Run Out of Food

By Melany Markham, World Vision’s El Nino Communications Specialist

Melany Markham is a communication specialist with World Vision who has worked in the humanitarian aid and development sector for over ten years. Born in Australia, Melany has worked in seventeen countries, including Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Kenya, Mozambique, South Sudan and India. She has studied Public Policy, Management, Marketing and Photography. She is currently based in Budapest, Hungary.


I will never forget Jeremiah. He was 14 when I met him in a village in South Sudan. He was in an area close to the border with Sudan where there had been widespread recruitment of child soldiers.

As I was speaking to him, some of the women around me asked him if he was going to join the army. He replied, ”Only if I run out of food.”

A few months after I met Jeremiah, World Vision had to halt our work in his village due to violence and security concerns. I hope he is safe and somewhere where he can get food. Like so many of the boys I met, they don’t want to become soldiers, but when there is nothing to eat, they hardly have a choice.

We go to great lengths to get food to people in South Sudan where, currently, one in every three people are short of food. I have traveled in boats up the Nile River with boxes filled with enriched food which we have then distributed to the mothers of small children. I stood next to people who wait patiently in 40 °C (104 °F) heat for food rations at general food distributions.

Normally they would eat sorghum porridge for breakfast, but the twins have developed a taste for maize and now prefer it now to sorghum. Their mother mixes it with oil, sugar and water. “When there is no tea, we make porridge.”

Food is a big part of what we do.

Every time we help someone, we change their life. Even food for a day can help to build up a person’s physical health. Access to enough nutritious food in the first 1000 days, from birth to age 2, have a profound impact on the rest of a child’s life into adulthood. UNICEF asserts that 45% of deaths of children under 5 are linked to undernutrition. Children who don’t get the right foods at an early age can suffer from poor brain development, delayed motor skills and slow or stunted growth. Their immune system is weakened, making it harder to fight infections and diseases. Good nutrition also boosts adult productivity in agricultural work. So, when you help address someone’s immediate food needs, you are helping them to help themselves in the long term.

Without food, you have nothing. When we give people food, we give them choices. But for children, I think it’s even more important.

There is something very personal about giving someone food. Even today, when someone gives me food, when a friend cooks me dinner, it is the most special gift. It shows me that they care about me and I think that the children we serve feel the same way. So when someone across the world gives a child something to eat, it shows they care about them, especially if that child is starving and living in a war zone. It’s a very powerful way of connecting with people who we don’t even know. It’s an easy way to give someone that we may never meet choices.

World Vision communications officer Melany Markham in South Sudan.

A lack of food directly correlates to a lack of choices.

When people are given food, they are ultimately provided choices and choices are what raise people out of poverty. If the Jeremiahs of the world have access to the right food, they have access to more options, and they’ll never need to join an army due to lack of resources or potential. Let’s continue to give boys in South Sudan choices. Let’s empower them to live hungerfree, to reach their full potentials and make choices based on desire, not on survival.

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