Nutrition security in Gao: An alarming situation

Press Release: for immediate publication

BAMAKO, 23 July 2013 – The humanitarian community is raising the alarm on the rates of acute malnutrition in Gao, Northern Mali. Mali’s Ministry of Health and its partners, including UNICEF, have just published the results of a nutrition and mortality survey (SMART methodology), conducted for the first time since the crisis began in this conflict stricken region. The study reveals a dire nutrition crisis, making it extremely difficult for the most vulnerable and children under age five, in particular.

“The nutrition situation in Gao deserves special attention. Action must be taken now so that children who can be saved are not left to die and so that new cases can be prevented” said Mr. David Gressly,
Humanitarian Action Coordinator for Mali, during a visit to Gao on July 23.

According to the survey, the rate of global acute malnutrition (GAM) is 13.5% making it a “serious” nutrition situation by WHO classification. The situation is an even greater source of concern in the Bourem health district where global acute malnutrition (GAM) at 17% exceeds the emergency threshold of 15% set by WHO. During the next six months, 22 730 children will be at risk for acute malnutrition.

These high malnutrition rates are explained, in part, by the fact that the survey was conducted in May 2013, at the start of the hunger gap season when food supplies run out. In addition, the spike in malaria during the rainy reason has an impact on children’s nutritional status. The negative impact of the conflict on populations’ financial wherewithal is another factor contributing to the severity of the situation. “The lives of many children are in jeopardy. They need immediate assistance,” said Françoise Ackermans,

UNICEF Representative in Mali. “Treating children suffering from severe acute malnutrition is a priority for UNICEF. We are sparing no effort to assist each child suffering from malnutrition,” she added. This year, more than 108 000 children under age five were admitted to nutrition rehabilitation units around the country with the assistance of the Government of Mali, UNICEF and humanitarian partners.

The nutrition survey is being conducted at the national level. It will be conducted next in Timbuktu, northern Mali, and is already underway in the south of the country. Results will allow for nutrition trends to be assessed to better evaluate needs and prioritize resource allocation.

$80 million USD is needed to meet nutritional needs throughout the country. To date, only a quarter of this funding has been secured. As of July 22, the Consolidated Appeal for Mali has mobilized $142 million, 30% of the $476 million sought.

For additional information, please contact:
Hector Calderon, Head of Communications, UNICEF Mali, Tel +223 7599 4089, hcalderon@unicef.org;
Cindy Cao, Public Information and Media Relations Officer, UNICEF Mali, Tel +223 7599 5846 ccao@unicef.org;
Katy Thiam, Public Information Officer, OCHA Mali, Tel + 223 7599 3497, thiamk@un.org;
Anouk Desgroseilliers, Humanitarian Affairs Officer – Reports Specialist, OCHA Mali,
Tel+ 223 7599 5761, desgroseilliers@un.org.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.