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'Children die of malnutrition in Darfur's Jebel Marra': OCHA

September 3 - 2015 KHARTOUM / NIERTETI
Tearfund nutrition centre in Darfur (Tearfund)
Tearfund nutrition centre in Darfur (Tearfund)

Aid organisations operating in Central Darfur are concerned that most of the children who died in Nierteti Hospital during the past weeks reportedly came from the areas of Thur and Golo in northern Jebel Marra.

Most parts of Jebel Marra remain inaccessible to humanitarian organisations after fighting earlier this year between government forces and rebel movements. The violence displaced tens of thousands of people.

There are serious concerns that the access restrictions by the Sudanese authorities will lead to an increase of severe acute malnutrition levels in the area. More children could be dying before being able to access treatment, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan reports in its latest bulletin.

Screenings

In February, the UK-based Tearfund organisation conducted a screening in its Nierteti clinic among newly displaced children under five, and pregnant and nursing mothers reportedly coming from northern Jebel Marra. The result showed a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of 17.3 percent, which is above the emergency threshold of 15 percent, and a Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) rate of 3.8 percent (3 percent is considered very critical).

Between June and August, about 2,500 people were admitted to Tearfund's nutrition centres in Jebel Marra, and records show a steady increase in the number of malnutrition admissions over this period.

According to the UN Children’s Agency (Unicef), the GAM and SAM rates for residents of northern and central Jebel Marra (Rokoro locality) are 10.1 and 4.1 percent respectively.

At the beginning of August, the Central Darfur Ministry of Health conducted a community nutrition surveillance in the area. The data are currently being analysed by the Ministry.

Traditional healers

The large number of malnutrition cases in the area have been aggravated by the lack of food supplies (owing to challenges faced in getting food aid to these areas), the lack of health services and the strong influence of traditional healers.

The people reportedly take children to traditional healers first. Only when the condition is beyond their capacities, the children are taken to a hospital. By the time the children arrive in the hospital their health has often deteriorated to the extent that assistance comes too late.

In response, Tearfund is training traditional healers in community-management of acute malnutrition awareness and referral, as it found that the influence of traditional healers offers an opportunity to better address malnutrition at grass-root level.


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