The women and their children had gathered in the shade of a huge tree serving as a treatment center for malnutrition. We were in Aweil, in the north of South Sudan and where child malnutrition rates are the highest in the country.
Never before had I seen so many people suffering from malnutrition in one place. Everyone looked at us expectantly, as staff from a UNICEF partner screened the children and provided a high-calorie therapeutic food to those determined to be malnourished.
Next to a box of the peanut-based, therapeutic paste sat a thin, tired-looking woman who was trying to feed her twins the food. She said her name was Athill. At only 28, she already had six children, four of whom were suffering from severe malnutrition. Today, she had brought her 8-month-old twins for a check-up and another week’s supply of the food sachets. Despite their age, the twins weighed almost the same as newborn babies, the boy just 4 kg, and the girl a little over 3 kg.