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Nutritional screening reveals alarming indicators in Darfur, western Sudan

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Médecins Sans Frontières
Press Release

Conducting a nutritional screening alongside a measles vaccination effort, MSF has identified high malnutrition levels in the population.

AMSTERDAM, Mar 10, 2004 — In the last two days MSF has vaccinated over 4,900 children against measles in the war-affected town of Garsilla, West Darfur. While carrying out the vaccination campaign, MSF screened the nutritional status of this vulnerable population. In so doing, 111 severely malnourished children were identified, along with a further 387 who are moderately malnourished. MSF is in the process of setting up a therapeutic feeding centre to meet these alarming nutritional needs.

Garsilla is normally a town of 4,500 residents, but today the town is host to an additional 18,000 internally displaced who have fled brutal and lethal attacks on their villages. This is a pattern that is repeated in all the areas MSF has been able to assess.

In Deleig, which has a population of 5,000 in peaceful times, there are an additional 17,000 displaced. Um Kher, with a resident population of 5,000, is home to a further 13,000 displaced. Today MSF is visiting Mukjar and Bindisi, where a similar situation is anticipated.

The displaced in all of these locations are not living in camps, but rather are gathered in various sites around the town, schools, offices, out in the open, or living with local families. The host community is assisting as far as they are able, providing food and non-food items, but as is to be expected when a population swells to more than four times its original size, resources and coping mechanisms are becoming increasingly strained.

MSF is extremely concerned about the food security of the population of Darfur, and fears that continued violence and insecurity, coupled with an insufficient international response, means that the situation can only deteriorate. In order to avoid a rapid escalation of malnutrition, MSF calls for an increased humanitarian response to the situation in Darfur.

In February 2003 fighting broke out in Greater Darfur, the western most region of Sudan. The UN currently estimates that there are over 700,000 internally displaced in Sudan, and a further 140,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad as a result. MSF is one of very few international organizations with a sustained presence in Darfur. MSF’s teams are currently providing assistance in Garsilla, Deleig, Um Kher, Mukjar, Bindisi, Zalingei, Mornei, and Nyertiti, with further assessments planned. MSF is present since mid-december 2003.

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