The tiny grave that broke my heart

A few weeks ago I made an urgent trip to South Sudan.

As much as you can prepare to visit a country that’s been ravaged by war, and now has over two million of its people displaced … I simply wasn’t ready for the scale of this crisis.

The statistics alone are overwhelming—thousands of people killed, more than two million displaced, 700% inflation—but when you realize there are real stories behind these numbers, it takes your breath away.

I was hiking back out to the road after visiting a remote World Concern project when I saw her.

She was standing alone beside a simple mud hut, so I slowly began walking towards her. As I came closer, I noticed she was standing next to two mounds of dirt … graves. One was dry and sunbaked. The other was smaller, and piled with fresh dirt.

I looked up at her, searching her face for signs of what had happened. Her name was Uduru.

In whispers she told me that her husband had died a year ago. But then, her eyes shifted to the tiny, fresh grave. She said that just a week ago she buried her sweet 2-year-old boy. He had died hungry, the victim of a combination of malnutrition and a water-borne disease. On top of his grave were two tiny plastic shoes, this grieving mother’s only physical memory of her baby boy.

Buried next to his father who died one year ago, Uduru buried her precious 2-year-old son just two weeks ago.

Uduru has three other children, each one is fighting to survive. I couldn’t speak. And just held this poor woman in my arms as she wept.

South Sudan is in the midst of a catastrophic food shortage, where thousands of people are on the brink of starvation.

It’s in places like South Sudan where World Concern is working to meet the urgent needs of people like Uduru and her children.

But we can’t do it alone.

We’re working through local churches to reach families displaced by the crisis with emergency aid—tents and tarps for shelter from the rain, mosquito nets to protect them from malaria and other deadly diseases, hygiene kits, and life-saving food. But sometimes there is just not enough, and that’s why your help is needed.

Decades of fighting in South Sudan will have a major impact on future generations.

The crisis in South Sudan is very real. During our emergency distribution I held a small child in my arms. He was probably only 3 years old. His pencil thin arm told me that he is already severely malnourished.

His mother had been standing in line all day but sadly by the time she got to the front of the line, our supplies had run out. We simply didn’t have enough to meet the need. She came to me pleading if we had more. She had been left out. I looked at her and the others behind her that had the same question. In faith I told her, we will be back.

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Jacinta Tegman

Jacinta Tegman

Jacinta Tegman is the president of World Concern. Here on the blog she shares her heart for serving the poor and marginalized through World Concern’s sustainable community development programs.

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