Life as an 11-year-old "mum"
Left alone, Paska took on responsibility for her three younger siblings, dropping out of school to care for baby Rose. This wasn’t easy for Paska: "It hurts to see that other children go to school, but we have to stay at home because no one can support us and I need to take care of Rose."
The girls weren’t left entirely by themselves for long though. They were sent to live with their uncle who lived nearby. But he suffers from alcoholism and, fearing for the children’s safety, their aunt Lily stepped in.
Paska and her siblings now live with Lily in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba. But they’re not out of the woods yet. Lily has children of her own, and while she feels a sense of responsibility for her extended family, she admits, “I cannot provide for them”.
Paska says simply: “Our life was far better when our mother was alive, even if she didn’t have a job. Now it’s terrible.”
So Paska can’t relinquish the responsibility she’s quietly bearing. And for Rose, Paska’s sacrifice has been lifesaving. Without her mother’s milk, Rose became severely malnourished and for the past few months Paska has dutifully taken her to a nutrition centre for treatment. “I brought her to the centre every week because her situation was not good. Now that she has greatly improved, I take her once every two weeks.”
The nutrition centre in Juba is supported by World Vision, whose team is already supporting 4,370 severely malnourished children. Years of economic instability, conflict and drought have combined to endanger children’s lives in the most basic way – lack of food. And the number of children affected keeps growing.