Feeding The Thousands

June 20, 2012 • South Sudan

By Melody Pineda, field writer in South Sudan

Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. The need seemed too great to fill, but with faith and God’s power, the task was accomplished. Like the story of Matthew 14, Samaritan’s Purse is feeding thousands of people in Maban County, Upper Nile, South Sudan.

In Maban County, there are now more than 117,000 refugees. Samaritan’s Purse distributes food, provided by World Food Programme, to these refugees.

At the end of each month, statistics come in that report exactly how many people received food. Typically, they look like this:

Food was distributed to 95,221 beneficiaries in Maban County in May by the SP food team. This includes cereals, pulses, oil, salt, sugar, and plumy doz (for targeted malnourished populations). Of the total beneficiaries, roughly 25,000 were new arrivals from the month of May. The camp populations have grown so that another camp has been opened, and SP is now distributing food in three separate refugee camps in Maban County.

What this report does not mention is the tremendous amount of sweat and labor required to make this happen.

It is one thing to feed a fixed number of people in one immobile camp. It is an entirely different matter to feed 117,000 people transitioning between three camps, and increasing daily.

Nearly 1,500 metric tons of beans, lentils, and oil do not move themselves.

We originally worked in two camps, Doro and Jamam, plus a transit site at the border of El Fuj, which is between Sudan and South Sudan. Between the two camps, there were approximately 70,000 refugees. Jamam was direly short of water, at 1.3 gallons of water per day per person. So an additional camp, called Batil, was created to absorb enough Jamam residents so that there was more water for everyone.

Sometimes our plans do not work out the way we expect. Instead of moving Jamam residents to the new camp, nearly 30,000 new refugees arrived in Maban County within a two-week period. The new site was not even ready. Jamam and Doro were already full, and food had been prepositioned there for regular monthly distributions.

The Samaritan’s Purse team had to start moving food. The amount of physical labor and organization it takes to do a regular food distribution is startling, but having to move tons of food by the truck full takes even more effort.

Each 110-pound bag must be hand loaded into the truck, counted, and unloaded.

Despite the logistical and physical challenges of feeding this growing population, Samaritan’s Purse continues to feed thousands in Jesus’ Name. The challenges are great, but we know we have a great God who can meet all of our needs. Please pray not only for the refugees, but for the SP food team as well.