Sudan’s children trapped in critical malnutrition crisis, warn UN agencies

Amman, June 2 (Petra) — Three United Nations agencies issued on Sunday a stark warning that all indications point to a significant deterioration of the nutrition situation for children and mothers in war-torn Sudan. The lives of Sudan’s children are at stake and urgent action is needed to protect an entire generation from malnutrition, disease and death.

A recent analysis conducted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN World Food Program (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) highlights that the ongoing hostilities are worsening the drivers of child malnutrition. These include a lack of access to nutritious food, safe drinking water and sanitation, and increased risk of disease. The situation is compounded by massive population displacement, as large numbers of people flee the conflict.

Sudan is facing an ever-increasing risk of conflict-induced famine that will have catastrophic consequences including the loss of life, especially among young children. The year-long war is also severely impacting the delivery of humanitarian supplies, leaving countless women and children without access to vital food and nutritional support. The agencies have been struggling to deliver nutrition products as growing violence and bureaucratic procedures impede access to conflict-affected areas.

Child malnutrition in Sudan is at emergency levels. In Central Darfur, acute malnutrition is estimated to be at 15.6 percent among children under 5, while in ZamZam camp it’s close to 30%. The situation has deteriorated over recent months, with no sign of abating due to continued conflict and severely hindered humanitarian access. Acute malnutrition is life-threatening, with malnourished children up to 11 times more likely to die than a well-nourished child. Malnutrition and disease reinforce each other, with sick children becoming more easily malnourished and malnourished children becoming sick more easily, and suffering worse outcomes. Even when children recover, malnutrition can have lifelong effects on physical and cognitive development. Sudan risks a lost generation, with grave implications for the country’s future.

Levels of malnutrition are particularly worrying among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. For example, screening carried out last month by Medecins Sans Frontières in ZamZam camp, North Darfur, found over 33 percent of pregnant and breastfeeding women are malnourished, indicating that they are likely sacrificing their own needs to feed their children. This situation poses an incredible risk not only for the health of mothers, but also for the next generation of Sudan’s children. As much as 30 percent of child malnutrition begins in utero, so children born to malnourished mothers are likely to be already malnourished themselves.

The agencies called for immediate, unimpeded and consistent access to communities who are suffering the worst effects of the brutal and lengthy conflict, through all possible crossline and cross-border routes with neighbouring countries.

//Petra// AJ
02/06/2024 13:40:33