MSF Survey: Alarming Malnutrition Rates in Western Upper Nile, Southern Sudan

Nairobi/New York, July 6, 2000 — The international medical organization, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls for urgent nutritional intervention in Padeah District, Western Upper Nile, southern Sudan, following a nutritional survey conducted in the area by MSF in June. Padeah District is extremely isolated and inaccessible due to its location between the Nile, the swamps and major tributaries. The disturbing results of the survey show a pocket of four villages where those children tested are suffering from over 35 percent global malnutrition, approximately half of whom are severely malnourished. Overall, the investigation reveals a global malnutrition rate of 23.3 percent and a severe malnutrition rate of 5.2 percent in a district with an estimated population of 40,000 people.

MSF also discovered that recent armed conflict in Padeah has displaced almost 75 percent of the population. An astonishing 95 percent of the population have, for the same reason, also reported cattle losses—the main source of trade and livelihood. It was, moreover, found that Padeah has never received United Nations or other general food rations and that there has been virtually no NGO presence since June 1998. Insecurity surrounding the oil fields and Operation Lifeline Sudan's failure to clear the airstrip, which would open up this isolated area, have led to the lack of NGO access to this civilian population. These constraints, coupled with the current hunger season and the risk of delayed rains, mean that the population is in a very precarious situation and in dire need of assistance. MSF is ready to start blanket feeding in Padeah District to respond to the malnutrition, but cannot do so until a general food distribution is in place.

"There is an urgent need to address the general food situation in Padeah," said Marilyn McHarg, Head of Mission southern Sudan, "If the general food rations are not in place for the families, supplementary feeding programs will not have the required impact for the malnourished children of those families."

MSF's recommendations include that the World Food Program (WFP) distribute adequate general food rations which are properly targeted and monitored. Once this is in place, an appropriate intensive feeding program can be implemented.

However, according to McHarg, "Even if the airstrip is cleared by the OLS for WFP, we have just learned that WFP does not have the food to respond immediately. This makes the situation even more tenuous for the populations we are trying to serve."

MSF currently runs various projects in the rest of Western Upper Nile, including visceral leishmaniasis (kala azar) treatment, basic health care and seeds-and-tools distribution.

MSF runs programs both in northern Sudan (Ghedaref State, Khartoum, Kassala, Meiram) and southern Sudan (Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria, Lakes, Upper Nile, Jonglei).