9 July 2012
Today marks the one year anniversary of South Sudanese independence from Sudan. How do things fare for the South Sudanese population one year later?
In humanitarian crises, one of the measures we use to assess the nutritional status of a population is global acute malnutrition, or GAM. To evaluate the GAM level, aid workers typically measure the weight and height of children between 6 and 59 months. If 15 per cent or more of children are classified as suffering from acute malnutrition, it’s considered a serious emergency.
According to new field assessments from Action Against Hunger, in Aweil East, a South Sudanese county in the conflict-ridden border with Sudan, the prevailing malnutrition rate is a staggering 28.7 per cent . That’s nearly double the threshold for a critical emergency. The severe acute malnutrition rate, or SAM, also stands at 6 per cent ; this is extremely worrisome, as it far surpasses the 2-3 per cent range that marks emergency levels.
One contributing factor to the alarming rate of acute malnutrition is Aweil East’s huge returnee population. More than 16,400 South Sudanese have returned to their native country and come back to Aweil East between October and February; more returnees are expected in the near future. There has also been an influx of Internally Displaced People from Abeiye and Kordofan arriving in Aweil East.
They are returning to a region wracked by enormous food shortages and skyrocketing prices. There was a 40per cent decrease between 2010 and 2011 in the amount of time that harvests last. Net cereal production is down 34 per cent since 2010, presenting a real challenge for a county where the main livelihood is agro-pastoralism. The border closure and north’s blocking of transport over it are making access a large issue, as well. Beyond the shortages and access problems, the variable climate, crop pest infestations and conflict have increased commodity prices for the staples that do make it to market, but the food is largely unaffordable for much of the population.
Water and sanitation conditions are not helping the overall picture, either. Over 60 per cent of the population spends between one and four hours a day fetching water—the majority of which is not treated—and only 3 per cent of the population in the county use improved sanitation facilities, as most households have no access to latrines.
With a GAM rate near 30 per cent and months to go before the next harvest this fall, Action Against Hunger plans to urgently act on the recommendations that came out of our field research:
Similar interventions will be taking place in neighboring Aweil South, which faces troubling malnutrition rates of its own—18.6 per cent global acute and and alarming 2.6 per cent severe acute.
As always, we can’t do this life-saving work without you. We thank you for any support you can provide to help create a better future for the children of South Sudan and their families.
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