The endless horror: more than 1,200 children under the age of 5 died of measles and malnutrition in nine refugee camps in Sudan between May 15 and September 14. Tens of thousands more could die by the end of the year, two UN agencies warned on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, we fear that the figures continue to increase “, explained Dr Allen Maina, head of public health at the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), as 333,000 births are expected before the end of the year.
“Due to the incessant attacks on health and nutrition services” in Sudan, which are “devastated”, Unicef fears in particular “that several thousand newborns will die by the end of the year” , underlined the UN agency during a press briefing in Geneva.
“We never imagined seeing so many children dying of hunger”
A bloody conflict between rival generals broke out in April, leading the country, among the most fragile in the world, into a death spiral. “Every month, 55,000 children must be treated for the deadliest form of malnutrition. Yet in Khartoum, fewer than one in 50 nutrition centers are functioning, and in West Darfur, it is one in 10,” UNICEF spokesperson James Elder told reporters at a a press point in Geneva. “Given the total devastation of vital services”, Unicef fears that the youngest in this country will experience “a period of unprecedented mortality”, it warned.
Thousands of children have already died, several thousand others risk dying “as long as this crisis continues”, including newborns, he indicated, while explaining that it is very complicated to have verifiable figures. But he found it “difficult to understand what the world is waiting for” to act because “we are really on the edge of the precipice”. In a joint statement, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the World Health Organization (WHO) also sounded the alarm on the deterioration of the health situation caused by the crisis in Sudan . “We never imagined we would see so many children die of hungerbut this is the new reality in Sudan,” Arif Noor, the director of Save the Children in Sudan, was alarmed in August.
More than 3,100 suspected cases of measles, more than 500 of cholera
According to teams from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the 1,200 children who died in Sudanese refugee camps came from Ethiopia and South Sudan. According to the UNHCR, more than 3,100 suspected cases of measles were also reported during the same period and more than 500 suspected cases of cholera in other parts of the country, as well as outbreaks of dengue and malaria.
“The world has the means and the money to prevent each of these deaths linked to measles or malnutrition,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, in a press release. “And yet dozens of children die every day as a result of this devastating conflict and a lack of attention from the international community. We can prevent more deaths, but we need money (…), access to those who need it and, above all, an end to the fighting,” he asked.
Unicef is also short of funds. The organization has received less than a quarter of the $838 million it had requested to help nearly 10 million children in Sudan, its spokesperson said in Geneva. “Such a lack of funds will result in lives lost,” he warned.