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Nearly 500 children die from hunger in Sudan as fighting halts life-saving treatment programmes

At least 498 children in Sudan and likely hundreds more have died from hunger, including two dozen babies in a state orphanage, as critical services run out of food or close, said Save the Children.
22 August 2023

Since the violence broke out in April, Save the Children has been forced to close 57 of its nutrition facilities, with 31,000 children missing out on treatment for malnutrition and related illnesses across the country. In the 108 facilities the agency still operates, therapeutic food stocks are running critically low, with buffer stock, or emergency supplies, now being used in the most extreme cases.

In Gedaref state in eastern Sudan, at least 132 children died from malnutrition between April and July, with 36% of all cases of children admitted to one state hospital with the condition dying from it or related illnesses. The hospital has also reported a significant increase in cases of malnutrition, with children recently displaced from Khartoum and living in squalid camps particularly affected.

In White Nile state, at least 316 children mostly under five, died from malnutrition or associated illnesses between May and July, and over 2,400 cases of children with severe acute malnutrition – the deadliest form of malnutrition - were admitted to nutrition facilities since the beginning of the year.

In Khartoum, at least 50 children, including at least two dozen babies, died of starvation or related illnesses in a state orphanage after fighting prevented staff from accessing the building to care for them.

Even before the conflict started, funding shortages had led to Sudan nearly exhausting its supplies of high-calorie and micronutrient rich peanut pastes, essential for treating malnutrition, including the “Plumpy’Nut” and “Plumpy’Sup” pastes.

In May Sudan’s only factory for manufacturing “Plumpy’Nut” was burned to the ground. The factory, which supplied aid agencies like Save the Children and the World Food Program (WFP), had been producing around 10,000 tons of the paste each year.

Dozens of warehouses storing food for WFP as well as aid organisations like Save the Children have been raided since the start of the conflict, with WFP declaring in May that at least US$14 million of food supplies had been looted. Dozens of WFP trucks are also being delayed at border points, further exacerbating the crisis.

Dr. Arif Noor, Save the Children’s Country Director in Sudan, said:

“Never did we think we would see children dying from hunger in such numbers, but this is now the reality in Sudan.        
                                                                                       
“Seriously ill children are arriving in the arms of desperate mothers and fathers at nutrition centres across the country and our staff have few options on how to treat them. We are seeing children dying from entirely preventable hunger.

“The looting of UN warehouses, the burning of the therapeutic food factory, and the lack of funding have put significant strain on supplies of therapeutic nutritional products across the country.

“Our pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears. The funding appeals for Sudan remain only 27% funded, with partners in Sudan still unable to access the much-needed funds.

“With humanitarian access deteriorating on a daily basis, the international community must step up and work to not only increase funding but to find collective solutions to ensure that the much-needed food and assistance can be safely delivered to children and their families across Sudan, including those trapped by the fighting.”

Save the Children has worked in Sudan since 1983. In 2022, Save the Children directly reached 2.1 million people, including 1.5 million children, with programming focused on child protection, access to quality education, health and nutrition support and responding to emergencies.

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: Joshua Mcdonald on 0478010972 or media.team@savethechildren.org.au.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

On 12 August 2023 , the Director General of the Children's Hospital in Gedaref state Dr. Nisreen Abu Gadder said malnutrition diseases had claimed the lives of 132 children, in light of a significant increase in the incidence of the disease in the state and inside the camps sheltering the displaced fleeing the war in Khartoum. The Children's Hospital recorded 365 cases of malnutrition from the beginning of April to the end of July 2023. A total of 33 deaths were recorded in April, compared to 41 in May, and 24 in June, compared to 34 deaths in July. She said that the death rate among children from malnutrition was 20% of the cases received by the hospital. She pointed to the high incidence of malnutrition in four localities in the state, which are the localities of Al-Mafaza, Qallabat Al-Sharqiyyah, Rural Qala’ Al-Nahil and Qilabat Al-Gharbiyya.

In 2022 Save the Children supported 57 TSFP (Targeted Supplementary Feeding Program) clinics, with an annual caseload of 31,658 children aged 6-59 months of age. These have now been suspended, with the same number of children no longer receiving.

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