Dying in the dust: a story from Sudan
Starvation takes hold in southern Sudan where leaves are the only food
Geneva/Paris: MSF teams in several areas of the Bahr-El-Gazal province, South Sudan, are treating a growing number of children suffering from severe malnutrition.
Following a poor harvest and insufficient rains, the nutritional situation is critical in numerous villages. Food stocks have been exhausted for months and the situation will continue to deteriorate until the next harvest in September.
In parts of Bahr El Ghazal the precarious nutritional situation has been aggravated by the return of displaced an refugees in the wake of the peace agreements. Tens of thousands of people have returned to the Aweil East county alone.
Yet food assistance has not been forthcoming. Despite that the World Food Program had warned of a particularly difficult hunger gap period this year, the quantities of food received by the most vulnerable are largely insufficient. This is clearly shown by the extremely worrying malnutrition rates in the area.
"To date, and despite the high levels of malnutrition in March, there has been no general food distribution in Marial Lou and Paliang," explained Sally Stevenson, Head of Mission for the Swiss section of MSF. "Those planned by the World Food Program (WFP) in spring for the Tonj area, did not take place in sufficient amounts. WFP has told us they will implement a first distribution in July only. These distributions will not cover the entire population, but only those identified as vulnerable and with partial food rations."
In Aweil East county, MSF teams have seen, over the past weeks, a significant increase of admissions in their nutritional centres of Akuem.
"Each week, up to 60 severely malnourished children who, without immediate medical assistance, will die, are admitted into our feeding centres," said Claire Magone, Head of Mission for the French section of MSF. "The situation is particularly critical. According to an Epicentre survey from June 18 to June 22, there is 4% severe malnutrition and 26% global malnutrition, which represents about 7,000 children suffering from malnutrition in that area alone."
In Tonj District, MSF teams have already treated more than 1,500 children. The nutritional situation was already critical in March, with 2.8% severe malnutrition and 21% of global malnutrition rates. This means that, at the time, at least 6,000 children in the area suffered from malnutrition.
"Now that we are at the peak of the hunger gap, the situation is only worse, particularly since no food distributions have taken place," stressed Sally Stevenson, Head of Mission for the Swiss section of MSF. "We are now preparing to distribute supplementary food rations for 7,600 children under five years old and their families."
Faced with this, MSF is increasing its response and is beginning widespread food distribution for 28,000 children in the Aweil East and the Tonj areas, but we cannot cover the entire area.
Despite the long awaited return of peace and the predictability of this critical hunger gap period, the South Sudanese still live in extremely precarious conditions. Their survival remains entirely at the mercy of their harvest, and there is insufficient international assistance.
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