South Sudan: UN launches mass nutrition screening as hunger threatens lives of thousands of children

Two-year-old, Kuot is being treated for severe acute malnutrition, at the UNICEF-supported Al-Shabbah Children’s Hospital, in Juba, South Sudan. Photo: UNICEF/Sebastian Rich

29 October 2015 – The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have stepped up their activities in South Sudan after the recently released Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) today revealed that nearly 237,000 children in the country are estimated to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

UNICEF and WFP jointly launched a mass mobilization campaign today, where 240 trained volunteers will go door-to-door to assess and screen more than a quarter of a million children in Warrap, South Sudan till the end of the year, and refer those with malnutrition to health facilities and other nutrition treatment centres.

“Visiting every single home will help ensure that children who are malnourished or sick will be referred for treatment and will receive life-saving care,” said Vilma Tyler, Chief of Nutrition for UNICEF in South Sudan in a statement.

The statement further said that the community volunteers, who have been trained by the state Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF and WFP, will teach mothers and caregivers how to keep their children healthy through best practices on nutrition, hygiene and sanitation.

Similar campaigns conducted in 2014 has helped the UN agencies to strengthen its response around prevention and treatment of malnutrition by better providing communities with food and access to services to treat both severe and moderate acute malnutrition.

According to the IPC report, at least 30,000 people are living in extreme conditions and face starvation and death in the country and in Warrap, about 26,000 children are thought to be acutely malnourished.

Further, the report observed that despite Warrap not being directly affected by the ongoing conflict, the acute levels of food insecurity, inadequate food consumption, poor maternal and child feeding practices, illnesses and limited availability of health and nutrition services have contributed to the high numbers of malnourished children.

The statement indicated that UNICEF has treated nearly 100,000 severely malnourished children under five at it outpatient therapeutic programme services, and added that WFP assisted more than 205,000 moderately malnourished children under five, since January 2015.

However, the UN agencies warned that basic health and nutrition services remain out of reach for most children in South Sudan.

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