Around 120 children die every day as a result of malnutrition and related causes, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.
At least 700,000 children under the age of 5 in Sudan suffer from severe acute malnutrition. However, UNICEF is only able to reach 300,000 children, “making the gap and need for support more urgent than ever,” the agency states.
In addition, over 38% of children under 5 are believed to be too short for their age, and 17% are too thin for their height.
Malnutrition is caused by increased food costs, poverty, and a lack of essential nutrients in food, and it is heightened by poor water and sanitation conditions along with high disease prevalence.
The economic crisis in the country, which began in 2018, has resulted in shortages of essentials such as fuel and medicines. There is also a large decline in people who can afford the local basic food basket, which puts an estimated 2.9 million Sudanese people at risk for nutritional deficiencies.
Malnutrition can be treated and prevented through micronutrient supplementation, counseling on good feeding and care practices, and nutrition sensitive interventions including vaccinations, according to UNICEF.
Sudan has one of the highest global malnutrition rates. At a UNICEF-supported Outpatient Therapeutic Feeding Programme in Kadugli @unicefchief met babies receiving lifesaving care + mothers learning the importance of breastfeeding in giving their children the healthiest start. pic.twitter.com/RHy5cfNBvb— UNICEF Sudan (@UNICEFSudan) October 28, 2019
The long-time conflicts in Sudan have left millions of children vulnerable. According to UNICEF, 2.6 million children in the country are in need of humanitarian assistance. This year alone, nearly 1 million children were displaced, and more than 3.5 million children — mostly in conflict-affected areas — are out of school.
UNICEF said Sudanese officials need to “prioritize children’s needs by strengthening action against malnutrition, addressing the education crisis, and increasing investments in children and young people.”
Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, is in Sudan to inspect the humanitarian situation in the country and meet with Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and other senior officials.
"This is a defining moment,” Fore said, speaking about the political climate in the country. Following the ouster of the former president Omar al-Bashir — who was arrested after months of protests — the new Sudanese government agreed to open humanitarian access in the country’s conflict zones.
“Moving forward, as Sudan starts the next chapter in its history, it is critical that it reconfirms its commitment to its youngest citizens by putting children and young people front and center,” Fore said.
She also stressed the need to end the recruitment and use of children in armed forces and armed groups in Sudan.
“UNICEF is working with all parties to get children away from the front lines and back in their communities,” she said.