13 March 2024 - Sudan

Sudan: Nearly 230,000 children and new mothers likely to die from hunger without critical action – Save the Children

Sudan: Nearly 230,000 children and new mothers likely to die from hunger without critical action – Save the Children

KHARTOUM, 13 March 2024 – Nearly 230,000 children, pregnant women and new mothers could die in the coming months due to hunger unless urgent, life-saving funding is released to respond to the massive and worsening crisis in Sudan, Save the Children said.

More than 2.9 million children in Sudan are acutely malnourished and an additional 729,000 children under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition – the most dangerous and deadly form of extreme hunger, according to new figures released by the Nutrition Cluster in Sudan–a partnership of organisations including the UN, Federal Ministry of Health, and NGOs including Save the Children. 

Of these children, more than 109,000 are likely to have medical complications like dehydration, hypothermia and hypoglycemia, which requires intensive and specialized care at a hospital to survive.

According to the Cluster, about 222,000 severely malnourished children and more than 7,000 new mothers are likely to die in coming months if their nutritional and health needs remain unmet. This grim projection is based on the current funding levels for the emergency feeding programme in Sudan, which at the moment only covers 5.5% of the total needs in the country. In contrast, the emergency feeding programme last year was 23% funded - still a fraction of the funding required, but substantially more than now.

Without addressing the funding gap, about 1.2 million pregnant and breastfeeding women will suffer from malnutrition this year and face severe health complications during and after delivery. Save the Children nutrition experts have reported seeing pregnant women skipping meals and going to bed hungry to allow their children to eat, severely restricting the nutrients available to their growing fetuses and creating grave concerns for the health of these babies when born.

The figures released today reveal a stark deterioration in the ability for humanitarian organisations to reach people in need, with an unprecedented lack of funding and critical lack of access.  In just one month, the number of areas deemed “hard-to-reach” by the Cluster increased by 71% from 47 in November 2023 to 135 by the end of December due to increased fighting.

Destruction of the in-country supply chain for ready to use therapeutic foods - critical for treating severely malnourished children – has also severely hampered the aid response to the crisis. In particular, the only manufacturer of the food needed for rehabilitating children and women with severe acute malnutrition is no longer operational after it was destroyed last year during fighting. 

Since the conflict escalated in April 2023, food production has crashed, imports have stalled, and staple food prices have soared by 45% in under a year. Movement of food across the country, particularly to rural and remote areas where most people live, have also been severely restricted due to conflict, driving more than 37% of the population into above crisis levels of hunger.

Dr. Arif Noor, Country Director for Save the Children in Sudan, said:

“The nutrition situation – the ability for children and other vulnerable groups to get the food they need in order to grow and survive - in Sudan is one of the worst in the world. No planting last year means no food today. No planting today means no food tomorrow. The cycle of hunger is getting worse and worse with no end in sight – only more misery.

In December, Al-Jazirah state, once the country’s breadbasket, witnessed intense fighting leading to a new wave of displacement with more than half a million people fleeing their homes in search of safety. This has led to an unprecedented disruption of food systems.

We are seeing massive hunger, suffering and death. And yet the world looks away. The international community must come together to act and prevent more lives being lost. History will remember this inaction.”

Sudan is facing one of the largest unfolding crises globally. About 25 million people – of whom over 14 million are children – need humanitarian assistance and support. That is every second person in Sudan needing assistance to meet their basic needs [OCHA]

Save the Children is calling on the international community to commit the funding and resources to prepare for a large-scale response to meet critical needs both in Sudan and in neighbouring countries, including to local and national organisations providing frontline response.  The child rights organisation is also calling for an end to the conflict and unfettered humanitarian access so that we can provide families and children with life-saving food, health and other vital basic services and supplies. 

Save the Children has worked in Sudan since 1983, and currently Save the Children is supporting children and their families across Sudan providing health, nutrition, education, child protection and food security and livelihoods support. Save the Children is also supporting refugees from Sudan in Egypt and South Sudan.

ENDS

[1] Sudan Nutrition Cluster Messages, 26 February 2024.

[2] FEWSNET: Sudan Food Security Alert: February 1st, 2024

Note to Editors

There are 729, 000 children with severe acute malnutrition in Sudan. Of these 109,000 have medical complications and 90% of them are likely to die (98,000). The remaining 620,000 children (729,000- 109,000) have severe acute malnutrition with no medical complication and 20% (124,000) of them are likely to die.

At least 1.2 million women are malnourished in Sudan. Malnourished women have twice the risk of death compared to well-nourished women, according to a recent review of scientific studies (2023). The UN reports 295 maternal deaths per 100 000 livebirths in Sudan. This means at least 7080 malnourished women are likely to die this year. The number of malnourished women likely to die as per UN figure on maternal deaths is multiplied by two as malnourished women in Sudan are twice as likely to die compared to well-nourished women.   

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