For several weeks, thousands of Mundari people – mostly women and children – have been surviving at Awerial Centre, located in the Eastern Lakes area, on nothing but wild leaves for food.
Having borne a seven-year drought, the Mundari people who hail from Tali and Tindolo areas say the situation has become unbearable for them.
"For seven years, we have been abandoned to die. We lost so many of our dear ones to ruthless hunger," narrates Achok Nyeki, a 23-year-old lady from one of the remote parts of the area.
"Those that you see here managed to stay alive because they had cattle, which they could sell [to support themselves]," Nyeki said.
Traditionally, the wild leaves are pounded into a green paste and used as a side dish, but in times of extreme poverty, like now, it becomes the main meal.
"We are suffering now. We are facing a lot of challenges including water, disease, and hunger," lamented Mary Chuti, an outspoken mother of six, adding, "We survive on wild leaves."
She was relaying the dire needs of her community to an integrated team of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Eastern Lakes government, who came to assess their living conditions.
Awerail Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC), a local agency, appealed to humanitarian actors in the country to speedily rescue these displaced people.
"I am appealing to humanitarian agencies to hurriedly provide food and essential non-food items to these IDPs [internally displace people]," RRC Coordinator John Parach said. "These people are in dire need of assistance, they sleep in the open, with few of them sheltering at a school; and it is the rainy season with lots of mosquitos," Parach said.
Humanitarian assessment conducted last week by a joint team of UNMISS and local authorities indicated that over five thousand people are now internally displaced and lack access to basic needs, including food, water, medicine, and education.
"We stand in solidarity with you to build your confidence so that you don't feel alone," UNMISS Associate Program Management Officer, Edward Moini Angu reassured the community. "We will urge the international community to support you. UNMISS will work with humanitarian partners to communicate your needs," he said.
So far, there has been no response from humanitarian actors except one non-governmental organization, which donated some medicine to the local primary health care centre in the area.