Escalating rates of malnutrition amongst children in South Sudan

Categories: In The Media.

The international medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres – MSF) teams in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei regions experienced first hand the consequences of the violent outbreak which occurred in December 2013, where one million people were displaced and tremendous food shortages were experienced. MSF is requesting that humanitarian aid be maximized urgently in order to meet the huge needs in South Sudan.

More than 13,270 children, most under the age of five, have been admitted to MSF feeding programmes in South Sudan so far this year, amounting to 73 percent of the 18,125 admissions during the whole of 2013.  Violence, displacement, and food shortages are the leading causes of the spike in malnutrition rates and the increasing numbers of children requiring urgent medical care in some locations where MSF is working.

“We are now witnessing the shocking, cumulative consequences of one million people being displaced from their homes,” said Raphael Gorgeu, MSF head of mission in South Sudan.  “This is a man-made disaster. Some people have been living in the bush for six months, drinking dirty swamp water and eating roots to survive.”

Rates of malnutrition have skyrocketed in parts of the Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei States since conflict erupted in South Sudan in December. In the town of Leer in Unity State, MSF teams were treating 40 malnutrition cases each month before the outbreak of hostilities.  More than 1,000 new cases per month are now being treated.

In Unity State, the scale of the malnutrition became clear when people who had been displaced by fighting returned to the town of Leer in May, following months living in the bush.

“They began streaming into the hospital,” said Sarah Maynard, MSF project coordinator in Leer. “It was overwhelming. The levels of malnutrition were startling.”

MSF has admitted more people for malnutrition in Leer during just the last two months (2,810 cases in May and June 2014) than in all of 2013 (2,142 malnutrition cases).

In Bentiu, a specialised MSF facility set up in May 2014 to treat severely malnourished people suffering from medical complications, including diarrhoea, chest infections and dehydration, has already admitted 239 children, of whom 42 have died.

In Jonglei state, MSF facilities in Lankien and Yuai have seen a 60% increase in admissions in the first six months of the year compared to the same period last year, from an average of 175 per month in 2013 to 290 admissions per month in 2014 so far.

In Upper Nile State, MSF teams have admitted 2,064 people, mostly children, in the area north of Malakal. A recent mortality survey carried out there revealed very high death rates.

“Displaced people are forced to endure terrible living conditions and are dying from preventable illnesses,” said Patricia Trigales, MSF emergency medical coordinator.

Read the full report on the MSF USA site.