More than 1,200 children under the age of five have died in the last four months in nine refugee camps in the White Nile state, southern Sudan, from a fatal combination of a suspected measles outbreak and high malnutrition, it has been reported. United Nations this Tuesday. In the same period, 3,100 more cases have been registered, for now non-lethal, of children who are in the same state, as well as half a thousand suspected cases of cholera and outbreaks of dengue and malaria in other parts of the country, plunged since the last April in a war between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (FAR), the main paramilitary group of the State.
The outbreak of the conflict, which has already caused thousands of deaths and injuries, and millions of displaced people, has put Sudan’s fragile health system under great strain as a result of attacks on health facilities, staff shortages and shortages of medicines and equipment, which poses a serious challenge in a context of high epidemic risk. The The war has also alarmingly worsened the access of many Sudanese to sufficient foodand it is estimated that today more than 20 million people suffer from acute food insecurity, which represents around 42% of the population, the highest figure ever recorded in the country and almost double the 24% reached a year ago.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Tuesday: “The world has the means and money to prevent each of these deaths from measles or malnutrition. But dozens of children die every day as a result of this devastating conflict and the lack of global attention. “We can prevent more deaths, but we need money for the response, access to those in need and, above all, an end to the fighting.”
The UN estimates that nearly 25 million people, about half of Sudan’s population, need humanitarian aid, including 13.6 million children. In September, furthermore, Sudan has become the country with the largest number of internally displaced people in the world, more than seven million, including 3.3 million children. Of these, the war is responsible for 4.25 million displaced people and one million refugees.
The situation of children is particularly alarming. Some 10 million children have seen a reduction in the quantity or quality of the food they consume, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and around 700,000 with severe acute malnutrition are in danger of dying. Additionally, some 1.7 million babies are at risk of not receiving essential vaccines, 9.4 million children will soon lack access to clean water, and 3.4 million are exposed to diarrheal diseases and cholera.
Just five Sudanese states, including White Nile, host half of Sudan’s total internally displaced population, around two million people, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is adding much pressure on the already limited resources of host communities.
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In Chad, the country that has welcomed the most refugees, mainly arriving from Darfur, around 13,000 cases of severely malnourished children under five years of age have recently been detected, according to the statement released on Tuesday by the UN refugee agency ( UNHCR) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
In South Sudan, the third largest recipient of Sudanese refugees after Chad and Egypt, high rates of malnutrition and an increase in measles cases have been detected among minors arriving from Sudan. Between May and July, an average of 103 children were admitted monthly to health centers for moderate or severe malnutrition, 635% more than before the war.
Although it has received a much smaller number of refugees, in Ethiopia the situation is equally worrying, since the region where Sudanese fleeing the war arrive, Amhara, is suffering from a cholera outbreak that is evolving rapidly and for which There are very few vaccines and means to deal with it.
Attacks against health centers
Despite the critical humanitarian situation in Sudan, humanitarian aid organizations active in the country are encountering many obstacles to work since the outbreak of war, including a general lack of security guarantees, bureaucratic and logistical obstacles, and attempts by both sides to instrumentalize their assistance.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday: “Local health workers, with the help of WHO and its partners, are doing everything they can under very difficult conditions.” “But they desperately need the support of the international community to prevent further deaths and the spread of outbreaks,” he added.
For his part, a spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), James Elder, has warned that thousands of newborns are in danger of dying before the end of the year due to the impact of the war on the basic services of the African country and the “cruel disregard for the civilian population”, reports Europe Press. Elder has indicated that some 333,000 boys and girls will be born in Sudan between October and December. “They and their mothers need qualified care during childbirth. However, in a country where millions of people are trapped in war zones or displaced, and where there is a serious shortage of medical supplies, such care is becoming less likely every day,” he stressed.
Elder has reported that “nutrition services are also destroyed” and has specified that “every month, some 55,000 boys and girls need treatment for the most lethal form of malnutrition.” However, in Khartoum less than one in 50 therapeutic feeding centers are operational and in West Darfur it is one in ten. “Official casualty figures put the total number of boys and girls killed in fighting in Sudan at 435. Given the complete devastation of the lifesaving services on which children depend, Unicef fears that Sudan’s youngest citizens are entering in a period of unprecedented mortality,” he warned.
The longer the conflict continues and low levels of funding persist, the more devastating the impact will be, according to Elder. “This is the price of inaction,” he said, before specifying that during his recent visit to Sudan he met with displaced civilians and “families who arrive scared, hungry and having left all their belongings behind.” In this sense, he has emphasized that “women and girls are continually terrorized during their flight” and that “there is more and more information about boys and girls recruited by armed groups.” “Sudan is now one of the most dangerous places for humanitarian workers,” he lamented.
The Unicef representative has clarified that, despite all these risks, the organization and its partners are providing help to children in the African country. “We need funds. As of this month, Unicef’s appeal for $838 million (about €784 million) to reach almost ten million boys and girls is less than a quarter funded. “Such a funding shortfall will mean the loss of lives,” he highlighted.