Food Situation Deteriorating in South Sudan

Doctors Without Borders Urges the World Food Program (WFP) to Continue Food Distributions

Paris/Geneva, April 23, 2003 - The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) considers the nutritional situation in East Aweil county and Tonj county (Bahr-el-Gazal) in Southern Sudan alarming. The organization urges the WFP to continue its food distributions in these regions.

On Monday, April 7, MSF opened a supplementary feeding center (SFC) in Akuem, a town in East Aweil county, in Bahr-el-Gazal. In the past two weeks 1035 people have been admitted to the SFC, and 213 children have been admitted to our therapeutic feeding center (TFC). Faced with the large numbers of children needing nutritional support and medical surveillance, the MSF team plans to open two new centers soon, a SFC and a TFC.

A nutritional inquiry carried out in January1 confirmed that the nutritional situation was very fragile (13.3% global acute malnutrition and 1.7% severe acute malnutrition). Since the beginning of the year, monthly admissions to the TFC have increased from 46 children in January to 170 at the end of March, an average admissions rate two times higher than that for the first trimester in 2002.

In Marial-Lou, a town in Tonj, the deteriorating situation forced MSF to reopen its TFC at the beginning of March this year. "With the rate of global acute malnutrition at 22.9% and the rate of severe acute malnutrition at 3.8%, all indicators2 point to a situation more critical than that of last year. In the first week of April we already had 86 children admitted to the TFC, double the number admitted last year during the same period," explains Martine Chamorel, MSF's medical coordinator in Southern Sudan.

The degradation in the nutritional situation is due to the poor harvests following periods of dryness. The situation is all the more worrying as the depletion of food stocks is occurring so early in the year, while the next harvests are not expected until September.

"The current situation is alarming," explains Philippe Ribiero, MSF head of mission in Southern Sudan. "It could become even more serious if general food distributions are not organized quickly." On its part, the World Food Program undertook food distribution in East Aweil county in March. MSF finds it crucial for the WFP to continue with its general food distributions in a manner adapted to the population to ensure that the situation in the region does not deteriorate even more.

1 Inquiry carried out between the 16 and 19 January 2003 in East Aweil county: 926 children between 6 to 59 months surveyed (expressed as a Z-score).

2 Nutritional inquiry carried out in April 2003 in Tonj county : 450 children between 6 to 59 month (expressed as a Z-score).