UNICEF says 700,000 children in Sudan at risk of worst form of malnutrition

By Thomson Reuters Feb 9, 2024 | 5:15 AM

GENEVA (Reuters) – UNICEF said on Friday that 700,000 children in Sudan were likely to suffer from the worst form of malnutrition this year, with tens of thousands who could die.

A 10-month war in Sudan between its armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has devastated the country’s infrastructure, prompted warnings of famine and displaced millions of people inside and outside the country.

“The consequences of the past 300 days means that more than 700,000 children are likely to suffer from the deadliest form of malnutrition this year,” James Elder, spokesperson for UNICEF, told a press conference in Geneva.

“UNICEF won’t be able to treat more than 300,000 of those without improved access and without additional support. In that case, tens of thousands would likely die.”

Elder defined the most dangerous form of malnutrition as severe acute malnutrition, which makes a child 10 more likely to die from diseases such as cholera and malaria. He said 3.5 million children were projected to suffer acute malnutrition.

UNICEF provides “ready-to-use therapeutic food”, or RUTF, a life-saving food item that treats severe wasting in children under five years old, to Sudan.

UNICEF is appealing for $840 million to help just over 7.5 million children in Sudan this year, but Elder deplored the lack of funds collected in previous appeals.

“Despite the magnitude of needs, last year the funding UNICEF sought for nearly three-quarters of children in Sudan was not forthcoming,” Elder said.

The United Nations on Wednesday urged countries not to forget the civilians caught up in the war in Sudan, appealing for $4.1 billion to meet their humanitarian needs and support those who have fled to neighbouring countries.

Half of Sudan’s population – around 25 million people – need humanitarian assistance and protection, while more than 1.5 million people have fled to the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan, according to the United Nations.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Alison Williams)