Measles and Malnutrition Increasing in Sudan's Darfur Region

The Health of Hundreds of Thousands of Displaced People Worsens Dramatically

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New York, April 28, 2004 - Because of the lack of appropriate, urgently needed aid, the health of displaced people in Sudan's Darfur region - particularly children - is radically worsening, according to the international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

As a preventive measure, teams from MSF have vaccinated 15,000 children against measles in Mornay. Unfortunately, vaccination efforts were delayed in Nyertiti and Zalinge, and MSF teams have had to treat hundreds of children with measles. Measles first affects children weakened by poor nutrition, and complications from the highly contagious disease can be fatal.

MSF teams also see a drastic decline in people's nutritional status, particularly among children. From April 19-23 in Mornay, where nearly 80,000 displaced people are gathered, 107 new patients were admitted to MSF's intensive therapeutic feeding center, which is now treating 333 severely malnourished children. An additional 1,623 moderately malnourished children are being treated in supplementary feeding centers. On March 15, the World Food Program conducted a general distribution consisting of two weeks' worth of food supplies. Food stocks were exhausted in early April. The only distribution since then occurred on April 22 and 23, when MSF distributed survival rations for 14,500 children. MSF teams in Mornay are supplying 550,000 liters of drinking water per day because of major problems with access to water at the site.

In Zalinge and Nyertiti, MSF is treating 250 and 80 severely malnourished children, respectively, and caring for 950 in a supplementary feeding center.

Despite announcements of forthcoming aid, assistance is utterly inadequate. Mobilization of aid efforts is slow and the few organizations operating in Darfur cannot meet the full range of needs. As a result, few of the estimated 600,000-800,000 people displaced by violence in Darfur are receiving food assistance. Furthermore, shelters and drinking water are in very short supply and access to medical care is extremely limited.

People in the region are completely dependent on aid to survive. If promised aid does not materialize quickly, the decline already underway will only worsen. Without an urgent response and the massive and immediate pre-positioning of food, medicines and shelters, the threat to the survival of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons will increase when the rainy season begins in May and roads become impassable, further hindering the delivery of assistance. Urgent action is required.

Nearly 40 MSF volunteers and hundreds of Sudanese are providing medical, food and water and sanitation assistance to nearly 250,000 displaced people gathered at sites in Mornay Zalinge, Nyertiti and Kerenik Garsila and at four sites outside Bindissi, Deleig, Umkher and Mukjar. Assessments are underway in the North Darfur region, in El Fasher, Kutum (where nearly 108,000 displaced people have gathered) and Kebkabya (where nearly 45,000 have gathered). The teams are seeing patients, referring the severely wounded, treating moderately and severely malnourished children, providing drinking water and distributing basic supplies. MSF volunteers are also working at the El Genina hospital. MSF has been present in the region since mid-December 2003. MSF is also providing aid to Sudanese refugees who fled to Chad in the frontier villages of Adre, Birak and Tine.