A rapid assessment of malnutrition and mortality rates conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in mid-January revealed a dire situation in the “Zamzam” camp in northern Darfur due to the conflict that began in April 2023 in Sudan. The results indicated that all emergency cases had surpassed malnutrition thresholds, while the mortality rate was catastrophic.
Médecins Sans Frontières called for an urgent, coordinated, and rapid humanitarian response to save lives, emphasizing the crucial role of the work carried out by UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations. These entities had maintained a limited presence in northern Darfur since evacuating the area in April.
The organization urged the need to organize swift distribution of food and financial aid, ensure healthcare, and provide water and sanitation. Claire Nicole, Head of Emergency Response for Médecins Sans Frontières in Sudan, highlighted the gravity of the situation, stating, “We estimate that at least one child dies every two hours in the camp, or about 13 children die daily.” She added that children suffering from acute malnutrition, who have not succumbed yet, are likely to die within three to six weeks if left untreated.
Médecins Sans Frontières pointed out several factors contributing to the rise in malnutrition levels. Normally, January is expected to have the lowest malnutrition rates, as December is often the harvest season. However, last year, farmers couldn’t tend to their crops due to insecurity, resulting in below-average agricultural production due to reduced rainfall.
Before April 2023, the healthcare system in northern Darfur was supported by UN agencies such as the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. However, this assistance abruptly halted with severe disruptions to supply routes and air passages. In El Fasher, the state capital, malnutrition intervention programs ceased, and there was no longer a primary healthcare center for children.
Claire Nicole stated, “Every day, patients are transported from Zamzam camp to El Fasher Children’s Hospital in an attempt to save lives, but we know that hundreds of children don’t even make it to our clinic in the camp. We must prevent further deterioration through intensified mobilization of the international community.”