'Severe crisis': malnutrition in N Bahr el Ghazal
AWEIL (14 Oct.)
Hunger is biting deep in South Sudan's northwest region of Bahr el
Ghazal even though much of the region is not directly affected by
Aid group Medair stated in a press release today that one out of three
people is already malnourished in some areas. “Northern Bahr el Ghazal
is experiencing one of the most severe malnutrition crises the country
has seen in years,” explains Becky Hammond, Medair’s Nutrition Advisor
in South Sudan.
The aid group which is operating in Northern Bahr el Ghazal said that
the situation is caused in part by the closure of the border with
Sudan, combined with late rains and flooding of field crops.
Regina, a single mother of a 12-month-old daughter living in the area
said that she cultivated her plot of land earlier this year, but the
crops have been destroyed by flooding and she doesn’t have any other
source of income. “The situation is bad. How am I going to sleep
tonight? I didn’t even eat last night,” recounts Regina The only food
available to Regina is pumpkin seeds and sometimes she is able to get
hold of some dried fish. Regina’s daughter is severely malnourished.
Last month airdrops by the World Food Program were suspended because
the government imposed additional security requirements. They later
resumed but were suspended again this week. Minister of Information
Michael Makuei recently told reporters that WFP had been
“intransigent” with his government.
“Did they come here for humanitarian services? They came there for
their own ulterior objectives,” Makuei said as quoted in an AP report
Officials have explained that security measures are necessary to keep
the relief operations safe.
Meanwhile, UN agencies estimate that roughly 60 percent of the South
Sudanese population faces levels of hunger described as "crisis,"
''emergency" or "catastrophic," and Northern Bahr el Ghazal has been
among the hardest hit areas.
Neighboring Warrap State is also badly affected. Peter Pakak,
commissioner of the state's Awan Pajok County told Radio Tamazuj today
that the food shortage is threatening lives of citizens and some
people have deserted to other states or Sudan because of the hunger.
The emergency levels of malnutrition are compounded by a malaria
upsurge in the past weeks. Medair says that the prevalence of malaria
cases in the area has increased by 400 percent in nine weeks’ time.
“The limited availability of essential drugs and the small number of
staff in health facilities have made it very difficult for people to
receive adequate treatment in time unless they have enough money to
pay,” the relief organization reported.
Aweil State Minister of Health Teresina Athou Lueth says some other
health conditions are going untreated. Speaking to Radio Tamazuj this
morning, she said that her ministry received reports about many people
infected with river blindness but drugs for the condition in some
areas ran out since the beginning of this year. The minister pointed
to inaccessibility due to poor roads in some payams and counties is a
factor for poor health service delivery.
In the meantime, Medair says it has sent an emergency response team
that recently set up three emergency nutrition clinics to treat young
children with acute malnutrition and is aiming to establish four more
clinics. Medair also opened a malaria clinic in Aweil town, which last
week saw 2,599 patients.
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