Sudan

WV figures show good improvement in Bahr el Ghazal nutrition

Survey: dramatic drop in numbers of malnourished children in Gogrial: 12% children malnourished, down from 41% in May. Situation remains difficult, with population still vulnerable
The health of children in Bahr el Ghazal has been dramatically improved by the Operation Lifeline Sudan emergency programme, new figures demonstrate.

World Vision health staff have completed intensive nutritional surveys of Tonj and Gogrial counties of Bahr el Ghazal, where the agency operates therapeutic nutritional centres and health clinics, and distributes general food rations provided by the World Food Programme.

The survey was carried out using World Health Organisation approved methodologies, randomly sampling 30 clusters of children from all the payams (districts) of Tonj, and 30 more from two payams of Gogrial.

In Gogrial county, 11.9 percent of children sampled were shown to have global malnutrition (that is, their weight was 80 percent or below what is should be for their height). A previous study, conducted in May at the height of the famine, indicated that 40.8 percent of children were malnourished. More remarkable still, for the most severely malnourished (those whose weight is 70 percent or more below the norm) the figures have fallen from 13.6 percent in May to 1.6 percent now.

In Tonj the reduction in need is not so pronounced, but even so the figures represent thousands of children whose lives have been saved or greatly improved. More than one child in three (33.4 percent) was malnourished in May; now less than one in five (18.3 percent) falls into the category. The proportion of Tonj children who are severely malnourished has fallen from one in 10 to one in 20.

"The therapeutic feeding and general food distributions have had a very positive impact on the health of the population," concludes World Vision's Sudan health coordinator Ann Njenga.

"The work of World Vision, the World Food Programme and other OLS partners has stopped a terrible crisis in Gogrial and Tonj from becoming a complete disaster."

She said there were many possible reasons why the impact on Gogrial has been greater than that in Tonj.

"It is difficult to say without further investigations. We do have more displaced people in Tonj County, and they don't have their own resources - they have to depend completely on the relief food."

World Vision has been scaling down the work of its therapeutic nutrition centres, and plans to close them for the time being to
encourage the population to settle, plant and grow its own food.

Staff continue to warn that the population is not yet safe, and remains dependent on general food distributions. Few families have any significant reserves, and any increase in fighting or other disasters will quickly bring about a return to the desperate situation seen in mid-1998.

General food distributions and supplementary feeding will continue, however, and the agency is currently bringing 11,000 MT of food by road from Uganda - the largest land convoy of food to Bahr el Ghazal to date. At the same time, preparations are being made for large scale agricultural support, including seed and tool distributions, an increase in ox-ploughing initiatives, model farms and farmer-to-farmer support.

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Contact:

Kathleen Brown, (202) 608-1842
Sheryl Watkins, (253) 815-2246

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Copyright 1998 World Vision Inc.