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6 Feb, 2024 14:04

Charity raises alarm over child deaths in war-torn African nation

Doctors Without Borders says about 13 children die each day from malnutrition at a camp in Sudan’s North Darfur region
Charity raises alarm over child deaths in war-torn African nation

More than a dozen children die every day at the Zamzam camp for displaced people in Sudan, where an armed conflict between two rival military forces has been raging since mid-April last year, the medical charity Doctors without Borders (MSF) reported on Monday.

According to MSF, the deaths are caused by “catastrophic” malnutrition at the camp in the North Darfur region, as UN agencies and international NGOs that provide food assistance have had to scale back their operations due to the fighting.

“We estimate that at least one child is dying every two hours in the camp… there are around 13 child deaths each day,” Claire Nicolet, head of MSF’s emergency response in the Sahel nation, said in a statement.

“Those with severe malnutrition who have not yet died are at high risk of dying within three to six weeks if they do not get treatment,” Nicolet added, calling for an immediate increase in the humanitarian response.

Zamzam Camp, one of the largest and oldest facilities for displaced people in Sudan, was originally built by people fleeing the Darfur civil war in 2003, which left an estimated 300,000 people dead. The camp has, however, not been spared from the humanitarian crisis that has engulfed the landlocked country since fighting broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on April 15 last year, according to the medical charity.

Last April, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) halted all operations in war-torn Sudan after three of its employees were killed in the clashes. In May of the same year, the agency announced it was “rapidly” resuming activities to provide “life-saving” aid to the Sudanese population despite “enormous security challenges.”

However, on Monday, MSF said “there have been no food distributions from the WFP since May” to residents of the Zamzam camp, who were “heavily reliant” on international agencies for survival prior to the outbreak of fighting. According to UN figures, 16 million people in Sudan are subjected to hunger, with Darfur having the highest rates.

Sudan, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has the world’s largest internal displacement crisis, with around 9 million people forced out of their homes over the course of 10 months of hostilities.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned on Monday that without humanitarian support and a ceasefire agreement between the warring factions, Sudanese refugees will make their way to European Union countries, which are already grappling with record numbers of migrants.

A previous UN report says more than 12,000 people have been killed in the fighting that erupted in the capital, Khartoum, and has since taken on an inter-ethnic dimension, triggering waves of killings in Darfur.