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OCHA: ‘Spike in acute malnutrition in West Darfur’

August 28 - 2016 KHARTOUM
A Mass Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) screening (Unicef Sudan)
A Mass Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) screening (Unicef Sudan)

Over the past few months, the West Darfur Ministry of Health has reported high rates of severe acute malnutrition in the state.

Between January and July 2016, the total number of severe acute malnutrition cases reported in nutrition centres in West Darfur was 5,525, compared to 4,167 reported within the same period in 2015. The number of admissions in June and July is almost 50 percent higher than same period last year.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports in its bulletin this week that medical experts in West Darfur indicate that malnutrition rates in the state are likely to be higher than the figures, given the fact that the reported cases do not represent the overall picture, mainly because of a lack of nutrition centres in some areas.

There are fewer nutrition centres in West Darfur in 2016 compared to last year, as some partners have phased out or closed nutrition centres owing to funding constraints. Some of the eight localities in West Darfur do not have any nutrition centres.

Nutrition experts indicate that it is still unclear what is causing the high rates of malnutrition since no comprehensive assessment has been completed. There are plans to conduct a multi-sectorial assessment after a Mass Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) screening campaign to establish the factors contributing to the high malnutrition rates.

Malnutrition rates usually increase on average by 30 per cent in many parts of Sudan during the lean rainy season (June-September). This is mainly because of an increase in diarrhoeal diseases, malaria, limited food stock, and poor infant and young child feeding practices, as mothers are busy working in the fields.

This year however, the rates are exceptionally high compared to previous years, OCHA states.

Response

The West Darfur Ministry of Health and partners plan to conduct a house-to-house mass MUAC screening in all localities to understand the overall picture of malnutrition in West Darfur. The exercise is to start on 29 August as part of the countrywide MUAC screening campaign slated from 29 to 31 August.

The Federal Ministry of Health, the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef), and partners are supporting the nationwide mass MUAC screening exercise.

To respond to the increase in admission rates, Unicef and the World Food Programme (WFP) have dispatched more nutrition supplies and supplements to West Darfur. In the weeks and months to come, more resources will be required for opening new nutrition facilities and for procuring nutrition supplies.

Increase in severe acute malnutrition admission cases in Blue Nile State

Meanwhile, there has also been an increase in reported severe acute malnutrition cases in Blue Nile State. The Sudanese Food Security Technical Secretariat (FSTS) reported in its July update for Blue Nile State that results of a MUAC screening exercise conducted by the Nutrition Department of the State Ministry of indicated that severe acute malnutrition admission cases among children under five years had increased by 105 per cent in June 2016, compared to cases reported in May this year.

According to nutrition experts, the increase in the number of admissions in June was partly due to a better detection of cases as a result of the mass MUAC screening completed in the state covering 45 communities.

Following the MUAC screening, 943 severe acute malnutrition cases were referred to the Outpatient Therapeutic Feeding Programme (OTP) in addition to those who were admitted through the routine programme. The total number of newly admitted severe acute malnutrition cases in July was 1,321, with the number in August likely to be higher, as a result of the mass MUAC screening at the end of the month.


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