Malnutrition Rates Forecast Potential Famine in S. Sudan

An ACF nutrition report details the developing nutritional crisis and the potential risk of famine in southern Sudan

In a recently released report, the international aid organization Action Against Hunger (known internationally as Action Contre la Faim or ACF) warns that a famine may occur in southern Sudan unless immediate action is taken.

ACF Report Details Potential for Famine

The report's nutrition surveys show that more than one-fifth of southern Sudan's population under five already suffer from moderate and severe acute forms of malnutrition—types of malnutrition that can kill if not treated. Last year's rate of moderate and severe malnutrition in southern Sudan was 19% of the population—already 4 points above the 15% emergency level. Now the numbers have worsened, with an estimated overall malnutrition rate of 20.7%—meaning that out of an estimated population of 7 million, perhaps as many as 280,000 children under the age of five are malnourished.

In addition, the report highlights, malnutrition rates in certain regions have spiked well beyond the emergency level:

  • In Gogrial West, the overall malnutrition (moderately and severely malnourished or GAM) rate is 25.2%, with 3.8% of the population severely malnourished (SAM).
  • In Malut County, GAM is 28.1% and SAM is 4.5%.
  • In Twic, GAM is 30.7 % and SAM is 4.9%.
  • In South Bor County, GAM is 39.4% while SAM is 8.1%.

"Action Against Hunger is extremely concerned that there is still no concentrated effort to stop extreme hunger in southern Sudan despite unacceptably high rates of malnutrition the past several years," says Onesmus Muinde, an ACF nutritionist in southern Sudan. "Why must we wait for a famine? We have the means to stop this crisis, but not the resources."

ACF feels that the peace agreement signed in January 2005 gives nongovernmental organizations the momentous opportunity to end malnutrition in Sudan, as well as to start long-term programs to build up food availability, increase access to clean water and health services, and improve childcare practices and hygiene. Unfortunately, immediate measures are needed to address the nutritional tailspin that threatens to turn an already horrible cyclical problem into a severe nutritional emergency.

ACF fears that without the type of media attention that the tsunami in Asia received, southern Sudan's nutritional crisis will become a full-fledged famine during the hunger gap next year.