More than 1,200 children under the age of 5 have died in nine camps in war-torn Sudan in the past five months due to a deadly combination of measles and malnutrition, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.
UNHCR said the deaths, between May 15 and September 14, were documented by its teams in Nile River province, where thousands of Sudanese have fled as fighting has raged for six months between rival generals, in the capital of Khartoum and elsewhere.
“Dozens of children die every day — a result of this devastating conflict and the lack of global attention,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
Escalating SUDAN CONFLICT DISPLACES OVER 2 MILLION PEOPLE, UN WARNS OF POTENTIAL ‘CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY’
Sudan was plunged into chaos in mid-April when tensions between the army, led by General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Force, led by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, erupted into open warfare.
The conflict has turned the capital and other urban areas into battlefields. At least 5,000 people were killed and more than 12,000 injured, according to Volker Perthes, the UN envoy to the country, who announced his resignation last week. The actual death toll, he said, is likely much higher.
More than 2.5 million people have fled their homes, including 1 million who have crossed into Sudan’s neighboring countries, according to the UN migration agency.
The fighting has devastated the country’s healthcare system, with many hospitals and medical facilities out of service.
Local health workers “desperately need the support of the international community to prevent further deaths and outbreaks,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization.
SUDAN CONFLICT DISPLACES OVER 1.3 M, INCLUDING 320,000. IN THE NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned on Monday that the conflict, combined with hunger, disease, displacement and destruction of livelihoods, threatens to destroy the entire country.
OCHA said about half of the country’s population — about 25 million people — is in need of humanitarian assistance by the end of this year. They include about 6.3 million who are “one step away from starvation,” the agency said.
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The UN refugee agency said many displaced Sudanese were suffering from measles and malnutrition. Many refugees arriving in South Sudan and Ethiopia have also contracted measles and become malnourished. Acute malnutrition among children was reported in Chad, which is hosting the largest number of Sudanese refugees since the conflict began.
The UN children’s agency has also warned that “many thousands of newborns” could die in Sudan by the end of the year due to a lack of access to treatment.