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19 Sep, 2023 18:43

Deadly disease outbreak kills over 1,200 children in Sudan – UN

According to UNICEF, thousands of newborns are likely to die across the war-torn country by year’s end
Deadly disease outbreak kills over 1,200 children in Sudan – UN

More than 1,200 children under the age of five died in refugee camps in war-torn Sudan between mid-May and September as a result of a lethal combination of a suspected measles outbreak and severe malnutrition, the United Nations and the World Health Organization have said.

The deaths occurred in Sudan’s White Nile state, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and WHO said in a joint statement on Tuesday, reiterating their concern about the “worsening” health situation in the African country as a result of fighting between rival army groups since April.

Over 3,100 suspected cases of measles and high malnutrition, as well as more than 500 suspected cases of cholera, have been reported in other parts of the country, according to the UNHCR teams.

Health facilities are overwhelmed because of shortages of staff, life-saving medicines, and critical equipment, the organizations said, adding that repeated attacks on hospitals and medical teams have exacerbated service delivery challenges, worsening disease outbreaks and fatalities.

“…dozens of children are dying every day – a result of this devastating conflict and a lack of global attention. We can prevent more deaths, but need money for the response, access to those in need, and above all, an end to the fighting,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said local health workers, with assistance from the WHO and its partners, are making every effort under “very difficult conditions” to prevent more fatalities and the escalation of outbreaks. 

“They desperately need the support of the international community to prevent further deaths and the spread of outbreaks. We call on donors to be generous and on the warring parties to protect health workers and access to health for all those who need it,” Tedros insisted.

The conflict that erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on April 15 has killed more than 7,000 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

Last month, aid agency Save the Children reported that at least 498 children in the North African country, including two dozen babies at a state orphanage, had died as a result of food shortages and the closure of nutrition centers caused by fighting.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva on Tuesday, the UN children’s agency (UNICEF) spokesman James Elder estimated that thousands of newborns will die across the war-torn country by the end of the year.

“Every month 55,000 children require treatment for the most lethal form of malnutrition, and yet in Khartoum less than one in 50 nutrition centers is functional,” Elder was quoted by AFP as saying.