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Children in peril of malnutrition in war-torn S. Sudan, UNICEF warns

October 18, 2019

By Deng Machol

Juba – the United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF) has warned that there is alarming high number of children under five-year of ages suffering from physical of poor diets and food stuff.

South Sudan gained independence from the north in 2011 after decades of civil war, but returned into another civil war in late 2013, uprooted four million people both internally and externally from their homes, placed them under severely hunger and malnutrition.

The country’s five – year conflict has also ruined the economic and farming activities, leaved civilians on the arm of humanitarian agencies. To access the conflict-areas is measure problem due to insecurity and inaccessible roads in the country, surrendered children into malnutrition status.

The UNICEF chief revealed that the prevalence of acute malnutrition among children in the war-torn country was quiet alarming, it has increased from 13 per cent in 2018 to 16 per cent in 2019, which has above the 15 per cent emergency threshold.

“Every child in need treatment for malnutrition is a failure, a failure in preventing the suffering,” said UNICEF Representative in South Sudan, Dr. Mohamed Ag Ayoya in the press release. Preventing malnutrition is an essential part of realizing every child’s right to health. Young children can suffer lifelong consequences and in worst case die if malnutrition is not addressed timely during the first crucial years in life.”

Speaking to press in Juba on Tuesday, Andrea Suley, UNICEF deputy Country’s Representative said that a malnutrition is complex and must be fought on all fronts simultaneously.

“Together with partners and donors, we have become exceptionally good at treating children for acute malnutrition; now we must make up our game and become even better at preventing it,” said Suley.

Speaking on the same event, Dr. Baba Samson, advisor to the Health’s Ministry, said the parents should invest in prevention measures rather than cure.

“We need to invest in prevention than cure. [because] We are fighting a losing battle, and not addressing the root causes of the problems,” said Samson.

Baba stated that poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water was a big contributing factor to acute malnutrition in many localities in South Sudan.

“The problem of malnutrition today in our country is not only poor diet but it is the issue of lack of clean drinking water and poor sanitation that is affecting many children today,” said Samson

However, the UN Children Fund said a comprehensive nutrition campaign to fight malnutrition across the country has been launched.

Suley stressed that UNICEF and partners are working to promote age-appropriate feeding practices for children, including cooking demonstrations with locally available food.

UNICEF’s deputy unveiled that hygiene promotion, improving access to clean drinking water and sanitation and providing health services will also be contributing to prevention of malnutrition.

She further appealed to the government to produce multi-sector strategic plan for nutrition with joint targets, pool resources, multi-sectoral coordination, an accountability framework and joint monitoring and evaluation system.

Suley also urged donors and non-governmental agencies to support prevention strategy of addressing malnutrition by prioritizing prevention of malnutrition at community and facility levels, adding that the community must ensure that their children have a healthy diet.

“With good food and nutrition, we can set a child up for success, and yet we are losing ground in the fight for healthy diets,” said Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore at the global launch of the state of the world’s children report in London. This is not a battle we can win on our own. We need governments, the private sector and civil society to prioritize child nutrition and work together to address the causes of unhealthy eating in all its forms.”

 “It is globally estimated that 1.3 million children under the age of five will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2020. This calls for a paradigm shift in addressing malnutrition by shifting focusing on treatment to prioritizing prevention by reducing the need for treatment,” said Suley.

The challenge is not only securing enough food but ensuring children are eating the right things and get the nutrients they need to develop to their full potential, said the UNICEF.

“Only 7 per cent of children under five in South Sudan has an adequate diet. Furthermore, common diseases such as malaria must be prevented and treated, as they are often the starting point for malnutrition,” said Ayoya in the press statement. Only 50 per cent of households have access to clean water and only 10 per cent access to improved sanitation. Ensuring clean water and addressing poor sanitation and hygiene practices are also essential to preventing diarrheal diseases causing malnutrition.”

Suley said there are 2000 centers in the country set for specific nutrition to treat malnutrition countrywide.

“We have a very large program in the country where we focus on prevention and treatment with 48 NGOs to provide prevention services on malnutrition,” she said.

However, the state of the world’s children 2019 report finds that in 2018, at least 1 in 3 children under five globally, were either stunted, wasted or overweight, reflecting poor growth and putting them at risk of increased infections, weak learning skills, low immunity and, in many cases, death. In addition, 1 in 2 children – or 340 million globally – suffered from deficiencies in vitamins and minerals such as iron and iodine, further undermining their growth.

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