UN agencies warn of malnutrition and measles ‘catastrophe’ in Sudan

Acute food insecurity levels in Sudan in August - yellow is stressed, orange is crisis, and red is emergency (FEWS NET)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are sounding the alarm on the deteriorating health situation in Sudan which already claimed thousands of lives. The latest FEWS-NET report warns that the agricultural yield in Sudan this year will be significantly reduced.

Since May, more than 1,200 children under the age of five died in Sudanese refugee camps due to measles outbreaks and severe malnutrition, the UNHCR team in White Nile state reported in a press release on Tuesday.

The team warns that without immediate action, tens of thousands more Sudanese children could face a similar fate by the end of the year.

UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi said “the world has the means and resources to prevent these deaths from measles or malnutrition. Yet, every day, dozens of children perish due to this conflict and lack of global attention. We can prevent more deaths, but we need funding, access to those in need, and an end to fighting.”

The crisis extends beyond Sudan’s borders. A 56 per cent increase in malnourished children admitted to hospitals was recorded in Chad’s Ouaddaï region, which hosts over 80 percent of Sudanese refugees in the country.

In South Sudan’s Renk, reports show increasing measles cases and high malnutrition rates among Sudanese refugees, particularly those arriving from White Nile state.

In Ethiopia’s Amhara region, a cholera outbreak in Metema is escalating among 18,000 people who fled Sudan’s conflict, resulting in eight cholera-related deaths and 435 suspected cases as of September 12.

UNHCR is working with WHO to provide urgent assistance within Sudan and across the borders.

Ongoing efforts include food distribution and measles vaccinations for children under five in Blue Nile region and White Nile state, with over 53,000 children vaccinated. In Chad, two measles vaccination campaigns reached 1.2 million children. WHO and partners also launched an oral cholera vaccination campaign in Amhara.

Food insecurity

The August report of the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS-NET) on the situation in Sudan underscores the severity of the ongoing conflict in Sudan, particularly during the current ‘lean season’ from August to September.

The Washington-based FEWS NET reported widespread humanitarian needs and crises, with “urban centres like Khartoum, Greater Darfur, Greater Kordofan, and Blue Nile facing challenges due to direct fighting”.

It raises serious concern for “urban populations in El Geneina, Nyala, and Kadugli”, where intense fighting disrupted mobility and aid delivery, “potentially leading to ‘catastrophe’ conditions”.

FEWS-NET’s latest report also speaks about significant disruptions in cultivation for the current main agricultural season, particularly in conflict-affected areas.