Child malnutrition surges as resources dwindle in South Darfur camp

On December 25, newly displaced people arrive at Kalma, Outash, and Dereig camps in South Darfur (Photo: Darfur Network for Monitoring and Documentation)

The rate of children suffering from malnutrition has increased in Kalma camp for displaced people in South Darfur due to an acute food shortage and inadequate health services. The lack of awareness among mothers about the dangers of malnutrition and ways to combat it, coupled with an unsuitable family environment and a lack of security, exacerbates the crisis.

Abrar Suliman, a nutritionist at the Alight Centre in Kalma camp, told Radio Dabanga that the centre receives ten cases of child malnutrition every day. “This number is significantly higher compared to last year when the centre received one case over a similar stretch of time” she said, attributing the increase to the ongoing war in Sudan and its economic impact on families.

According to Suliman, some mothers sell the food rations distributed to them and lack awareness about alternatives. “Many children leave the centre after recovering but return because their mothers do not adhere to the nutritional prescriptions,” she added. “The UN no longer provides food rations due to the war.”

The programme to combat malnutrition includes children aged six to 59 months, “a critical period for preventing child deaths.” Health problems related to malnutrition, such as diarrhoea, anaemia, and high body temperature, are common.

“Malnutrition rates usually increase at the beginning of the fall season in May due to women’s preoccupation with agriculture, but this year the ‘hunger gap’ began early due to the economic situation,” she said.

Mohamed Bakhit, a journalist and humanitarian advocate in Kalma camp, told Radio Dabanga that the Alight Centre receives cases of acute malnutrition “but lacks space for all other patients.” He explained that 217 cases have been registered since the onset of war, with seven deaths and eight cases transferred to Nyala Hospital by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières/MSF).

“Some families refuse to go to the centre due to the lack of available therapeutic services, preferring to keep their children at home to die in their arms,” he said. The Alight Centre is the only remaining functional centre after the International Medical Corps (IMC) centre evacuated its outskirts last May.

He warned that the health situation in the camp is expected to deteriorate further during the rainy period, as farmers will not be able to access their farms due to the war and insecurity. “Women use plastic as fuel to cook food after being exposed to physical violence in the forests where they gather firewood,” he added.

As reported on May 20, the African Centre for Peace and Justice Studies interviewed several women from Kalma camp who were subjected to sexual violence, mainly by RSF soldiers, with some cases culminating in unwanted pregnancies.

Prior reports about the child mortality surge at the large camp have shown no signs of abating. Residents continue to appeal to humanitarian agencies for the swift delivery of essential food supplies to displaced individuals across the Darfur region.

Radio Dabanga reported on May 23 that 110 people, including 66 children, died in the last month in Kalma camp due to a concerning rise in potential polio cases alongside acute hunger.

Kalma camp has housed tens of thousands of long-term displaced people for 20 years, with new arrivals due to ongoing conflict.