Turmoil in Sudan: Children Battling Malnutrition as Conflict Rages

Published on 20th February 2024

February 15th marked the grim milestone of ten months since the onset of conflict in Sudan, leaving millions in despair, particularly children who bear the brunt of its devastation. Close to 18 million people are facing acute hunger. Reports indicate that over 700,000 children already suffer from malnutrition, a number that could rise to 3.5 million before the end of the year. In Zamzam camp in North Darfur, it is estimated that a child dies every two hours.

“The conflict in Sudan has displaced over 6 million individuals within the country, half of whom are children, making it the largest displacement of children globally. Children, already vulnerable, face worsened conditions due to the fighting. They are missing meals, suffering stunted growth, and facing increased risks of deadly diseases. Children under five endure acute malnutrition at incredibly high levels, with hundreds of thousands fighting life-threatening malnutrition. Without quick intervention, millions face hunger as famine is looming,” says Marie David, CARE International in Sudan Country Director.

CARE has been operating in Sudan since 1979, implementing humanitarian and development programs focused on women’s and girls’ empowerment, gender justice, humanitarian action, and resiliency. After a brief period of suspension at the onset of the conflict, CARE has resumed most of its programs. CARE supports over 83 health facilities in six states in Sudan, providing life-saving health and nutrition services.

Due to the violence, the scarce food -- as well as healthcare -- that is available is often inaccessible because access to markets or medical facilities is cut. Fatima, a 34-year-old mother of five in South Darfur, shared how harrowing the situation is: “Travelling out to get anything is too dangerous due to looting, killing, and violence. The road to Nyala was closed, basic commodities vanished, and prices hiked. There was little food to feed my kids. As I didn’t have food, I was unable to breastfeed my daughter. She became so weak that you could hardly hear her breathing. I was so worried that I might lose her as sadly there are no health facilities close to where I live since they were either closed or looted.”

Despite the immense challenges, CARE resumed its nutrition services in South Darfur in January 2024, reaching previously cut-off communities. In Nyala, CARE runs the only stabilization center targeting children under 5 years of age, and pregnant and lactating women. At the center, children are screened for malnutrition and receive life-saving therapeutic food and treatment for associated medical complications. Mothers also receive food. CARE has operations in East Darfur – water provision to refugees and host community and Health services; Gedaref – WASH provision for refugees, IDPs, and host community and Health services; Al Gezira – WASH provision to IDPs and host community and Kassala, Khartoum and South Kordofan - Health services.

With the resumption of services, Fatima took a chance and made the treacherous trip to Nyala Teaching Hospital. “My daughter was examined and admitted for treatment for malnutrition and associated medical complications. She received all the medications for free, and I was served three meals per day. She has not only recovered but is slowly gaining weight as well.”

While this resumption of services is a critical step, the scale of the crisis demands a more robust and unified response. “CARE calls on governments and institutional donors to support the response effort by Increasing humanitarian funding. The Humanitarian Response Plan remains grossly underfunded at 3.5%, with nutrition receiving only 1.7%. We call for a cessation of hostilities and protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, and humanitarian workers to enable them to reach those most in need. Time is running out and we cannot afford to let Sudan's children become another lost generation,” said Marie David.

By David Mutua,

CARE East Central, & Southern Africa Regional Communications Advisor


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