Sudan children trapped in malnutrition crisis, UN agencies warn

By No. 1 Citizen


In a stark warning, three United Nations agencies have sounded alarm on the rapidly deteriorating nutrition situation for children and mothers in Sudan.

With the ongoing hostilities worsening the drivers of child malnutrition, the lives of Sudan’s children are hanging in the balance, and urgent action is needed to protect an entire generation from the threat of malnutrition, disease, and death.

A recent analysis conducted by UNICEF, the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted the severe impact of the conflict on access to nutritious food, safe drinking water, and proper sanitation.

This, combined with massive population displacement, has created a perfect storm of factors that are fueling a conflict-induced famine with catastrophic consequences.

Child malnutrition in Sudan has reached emergency levels, with acute malnutrition estimated to be as high as 15.6% in Central Darfur and nearly 30% in the ZamZam camp, according to the analysis.

The situation has continued to deteriorate in recent months, and there is no sign of abating due to the ongoing conflict and severely hindered humanitarian access.

Malnourished children are up to 11 times more likely to die than their well-nourished peers, and the vicious cycle of malnutrition and disease is putting an entire generation of Sudan’s children at risk, the UN said.

The crisis is not limited to children; levels of malnutrition are also particularly worrying among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

Screening in the ZamZam camp found that over 33% of these women are malnourished, 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 up to 30% of child malnutrition begins in utero.

“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.”

WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain echoes the urgency, stating, “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.”

“Millions of lives are at stake and the international community must act now or we risk losing an entire generation of children.”

“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”, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“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.”

As the rainy season approaches in June, cutting off communities and raising disease rates, and the lean season sets in with concerns about below-normal agricultural production, the situation for Sudan’s children and mothers is poised to worsen.

The agencies are calling for immediate, unimpeded, and consistent access to the communities suffering the worst effects of the conflict, as well as a de-escalation of the situation and a nationwide ceasefire.

Renewed and significantly scaled-up support from donors is also crucial, as the window to avert the worst is rapidly closing.


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