|© UNICEF Darfur/2004|
|Last year’s harvest in Darfur was poor and there was little rain.|
NEW YORK, 9 March 2005 – Reports indicate that millions of people in parts of Darfur and eastern Chad are facing severe water and food shortages. Last year’s harvest in the region was poor, there was little rain, and the continued conflict is putting immense strain on limited resources. UNICEF is working with the World Food Programme to devise an early warning system that could help prevent famine in the most vulnerable areas.
“What we need in place is a good surveillance system. UNICEF is investing a lot in this,” says UNICEF Emergency Nutrition Officer Susie Villeneuve, who has just returned from Sudan.
“This is one of the ways to make sure we know what is happening in one month and in two months – because when a child becomes malnourished it is as a result of a long history of factors.”
Malnutrition among children in Darfur has declined in the last year, but that trend will be reversed if famine takes hold. By teaching mothers how to spot the early signs of malnutrition, UNICEF will be better able to help communities support their children.
“We have to think of preventing malnutrition rather than treating severe malnutrition,” says Ms. Villeneuve. “And the only way we can make sure we are preventing severe malnutrition is to show the community how to look after their children before they become severely malnourished.”
In spite of the recent peace agreement ending the war between north and south Sudan, the violence in Darfur continues. In two years more than 70,000 people have died and up to 2 million more have been forced from their homes. Many refugees are fleeing across the Sudanese border, causing further food and water shortages in eastern Chad.