UN Agencies Warn of Critical Malnutrition Crisis Affecting Sudan's Children

By Modupe Adeniyi. Freelance Health Reporter.

Partial map of Africa showing the location of Darfur in Sudan

Partial map of Africa showing the location of Darfur in Sudan. Click on image to enlarge.



FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2024. A grim warning has been issued by three United Nations agencies – UNICEF, WFP, and WHO – highlighting the dire consequences of the ongoing conflict in Sudan. The escalating violence has severely impacted the delivery of essential humanitarian supplies leaving countless women and children without access to vital food and nutritional support. As a result, the lives of an entire generation of children in Sudan are at stake and urgent action is needed to prevent a catastrophic malnutrition crisis.


The recent analysis conducted by these agencies paint a bleak picture – child malnutrition, lack of nutritious food, unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and an increased risk of disease. The situation is further compounded by massive population displacement as large numbers of people flee the conflict zones.


"Children in Sudan are experiencing horrific violence, displacement and trauma and now they are confronted with potential famine," said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. "When children suffer from serious forms of malnutrition, it harms their physical and cognitive development and can leave life-long damage. Parties to the conflict must urgently allow humanitarian access so children can receive food, water, medical care and shelter. But most of all, children need peace."


The report highlights alarming levels of acute malnutrition among children under 5 in various regions of Sudan. In Central Darfur, acute malnutrition is estimated at 15.6 percent, while in ZamZam camp, it's close to a staggering 30 percent. These figures are well above the emergency threshold, indicating a life-threatening situation for many children.


"Mothers and children across Sudan are wasting away from malnutrition. The ongoing war has stripped them of everything they need to survive – food, medical support and shelter. We need immediate and safe access to deliver the humanitarian assistance that they so desperately need. Without it, this crisis risks becoming the world's largest hunger emergency," said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain.


The consequences of malnutrition are not only immediate but also long-lasting. "Malnutrition is not a one-time crisis. Malnourished children face a lifetime of developmental challenges and ill-health and are also more likely to die from infectious diseases," warned WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.


The situation is particularly concerning for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, with recent screenings in ZamZam camp revealing over 33 percent of them are malnourished. This poses an incredible risk not only for the health of mothers but also for the next generation of Sudanese children, as up to 30 percent of child malnutrition begins in utero.


As the rainy season approaches in June, cutting off communities and raising rates of disease, and with the lean season between harvests when food stocks traditionally run low, the situation for Sudan's children and mothers is expected to worsen further. Reports indicate that agricultural production in 2023 was already below normal due to insecurity and displacement, exacerbating the food crisis.


The UN agencies call for immediate, unimpeded and consistent humanitarian access to the communities suffering the worst effects of the conflict, through all possible cross-line and cross-border routes with neighboring countries. They also urge a de-escalation of the situation in El Fasher and a nationwide ceasefire as well as renewed and significant scaled-up support from donors.


"The clock is ticking, edging Sudan's mothers and children closer to famine. WHO and partners are on the ground working to prevent and treat acute malnutrition to save precious lives but we need sustained humanitarian access and full financial backing to be able to do this," Ghebreyesus emphasized.


The window to avert the worst is rapidly closing, and the international community must act now to prevent a lost generation in Sudan and safeguard the future of its children.


Source: World Health Organization Newsroom. 


Related: Sudan Faces Worst Food Crisis Ever



Published: May 31, 2024

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