Message from Magnus: Help us keep our promise in South Sudan

Conflict in South Sudan has blocked our main delivery routes, putting our school feeding programme at risk. Despite the high costs, we have initiated air deliveries of food to ensure 16,000 children receive Mary’s Meals.

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow
Mary's Meals founder and CEO

Back to all stories | Posted on 28 Sep 2016 in Update from Magnus

I recently became aware of an outrageous statistic: An adolescent girl in South Sudan is three times more likely to die in childbirth than complete primary school. Beneath the long branches of an old tree in Rumbek, 11-year-old Aman – along with her fellow school pupils and their teacher – are working hard to change that. But the odds are stacked more firmly against them than ever.  

A brutal war is raging across South Sudan and the armed militias, who use rape and hunger as weapons of war, are stealing the hopes and dreams of an entire generation. One in five people have been forced to flee their homes.  

More than 686,000 children under the age of five are reported to be acutely malnourished, while one in every three schools across the nation has been destroyed, occupied or closed because of the war. South Sudan now has the highest proportion of children out of school in any conflict zone in the world, including the crisis in the Middle East.

Aman is the first of three girls in her family to attend school – her older sisters both having married young. Her school lies in the Lakes state, an enormous rural area in the heart of South Sudan, and is one of 33 primary school there in which more than 16,000 children eat Mary’s Meals.  

Today, thousands of families who have fled their homes in other parts of the country are seeking refuge here – traumatised, hungry and often sleeping outside. The newly arrived children are enrolling in schools motivated by a desire for education, but also by our promise of a desperately needed daily meal. 

But that promise is proving very hard for us to keep right now. A major bridge on the main road – crucial for the delivery of our food – has been destroyed and will not be rebuilt anytime soon and, owing to the continuing conflict, all other roads in are also blocked.  

So we have made a difficult choice. For the time being, until the roads reopen, we will transport food by air from the capital Juba. The costs are high – much higher than transporting by road – but at least, as chaos surrounds them, these children will eat their promised meal each day. And learn their lessons under those trees, and cling to their hope of peace and life beyond this horror.  

I wish I was not writing of such sorrow, so soon after the news of the worsening food crisis in Malawi. It had not been my intention. Your kind response to that plea has been so incredible that we have been able to expand our work again to a further 50 Malawian schools in the most vulnerable and food-insecure areas.  

And, globally, the number of children who now eat Mary’s Meals every school day has grown to 1,187,104! A happier statistic to end on – one made possible by you. On behalf of Aman and each child who can trust in our promise because of your kindness, I thank you with all my heart and ask you to continue giving whatever you can.