Jogie on her way to Bentiu, South Sudan.
Since 2008, Jogie Agbogan has worked on the frontlines of humanitarian aid at Action Against Hunger. Now our Nutrition Coordinator for South Sudan, a country that is facing the worst nutrition crisis in the world, Jogie is one of over 5,000 humanitarians at Action Against Hunger who are working collectively to end hunger.
For World Humanitarian Day, we wanted to highlight Jogie as one of our team members leading the emergency response in South Sudan. Our Nutrition Emergency Team (NET) in South Sudan recently set up an Outpatient Therapeutic Program (OTP) in the Bentiu camp that hosts over 46,000 internally displaced people. We spoke to Jogie to learn more about that process and her experiences in South Sudan.
Q: With all that is going on in South Sudan, why did the NET first decide to set up the OTP in Bentiu?
A: As the security situation continued to deteriorate in conflict areas, we received reports that the health and nutrition situation in Bentiu was worsening. UNICEF was reporting that up to 24 children were dying every week in the camp. After consulting with other humanitarian partners in the camp, we mobilized the NET and set up our OTP to help stem the rising malnutrition levels.
When I arrived, the entire camp was flooded— existing health and nutrition centers as well as hundreds of families were forced to find new dry spots in the camp for their shelters. Although it was difficult to set up the OTP, we worked through the rains so that we could start providing relief services as quickly as possible.
Q: What goes on in the OTP and how does it support people in the camp?
A: The OTP was set up to reduce mortality and morbidity of children under five years old due to acute malnutrition. We conduct medical screenings of all malnourished children to detect any health complications, we screen and treat them for malaria, and we provide antibiotics and the ready-to-use therapeutic treatment that each child needs to recover. Alongside this life-saving work, we also educate and counsel the mothers of these children about nutrition, infant and young child feeding practices, and hygiene. This approach is necessary because not only are we treating the children, we are also working with mothers to ensure that the children do not become malnourished again. After three weeks of operation, we have admitted 220 children into treatment, and have educated hundreds of mothers on nutrition, infant and young child feeding, and hygiene.
Q: What other work are you doing in the Bentiu camp? What kind of local involvement is there in the camp?
A: While the NET’s primary goal is to save children’s lives, we have a wide range of other activities in Bentiu. We are working hand in hand with partner organizations to design training modules based on partners’ needs and the community situation. As nutrition experts, we are playing a major role in building the capacity of our partners’ ability to implement nutrition programs, and we are providing technical support to ensure that all interventions, analyses, and planning are within global and national standards.
Our community mobilizers play a vital role in our operations. The mobilizers are all local volunteers from the camp who have made a commitment to helping children get the services they so desperately need. The mobilizers conduct community screenings and refer all severely malnourished children to our OTP, they organize community-wide health and nutrition education and awareness programs, and they spend time in the OTP to assist the team and learn other nutrition activities. Building local capacity is necessary to overcome this nutrition crisis, and our community mobilizers are key players in this process.
Q: Was there anything in particular that stuck out to you during your time at the OTP?
A: I was amazed to learn that mothers from all parts of the camp were travelling extra distances just to visit our OTP. Many people remember ACF in Bentiu from when we ran programs in the area. The memory of ACF in Bentiu and our reputation as an organization that provides high-quality nutrition services gave mothers the motivation to travel further with their children to visit our OTP.