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Darfur (Sudan/Chad) - Region in crisis


The story of a malnourished toddler in Darfur

© UNICEF Sudan/2005/Luwala
20 month old Maisoun Zakaraia, who sits with her mother, became severely malnourished when the conflict in Darfur prevented her family from growing food on subsistance farmland.

By Christopher Luwala
UNICEF Communication Assistant, North Darfur

DARFUR, Sudan, 19 April 2005 – In the past year, UNICEF has helped build 45 feeding centres in Darfur, and the number of deaths from malnutrition has dropped. However, as the crisis there ensues, health workers are preparing to see an increase in  the number of malnourished children .

The conflict, which has affected more than 2.45 million people, has exacerbated the effects of last year’s poor harvest: economic failure has provoked a seed crisis; insecurity has prevented planting, and mobilisation has forced overgrazing.

Nearly 12,000  children with severe malnourishment have been admitted into therapeutic feeding programmes in Darfur since May 2004. The following story documented by UNICEF tells of the plight of of one such child as if through her own voice.  Maisoun is  a 20 month old Sudanese girl.

Maisoon’s story

Because of the on-going conflict, food is extremely scarce. My parents could not access our subsistence farmland - our only livelihood - to produce food for us last season, so we’ve been eating less everyday since then. Subsequently I grew completely emaciated and am now struggling to get my life back with the assistance of aid agencies. This is my story.

© UNICEF Sudan/2005/Luwala
After two months at a therapeutic feeding centre, severely malnourished Maisoun Zakaraia, from North Darfur, gained 400 grams and was able to drink milk supplied by UNICEF.

I am Maisoun Zakaraia, the youngest of six siblings.  We’re from Soba village, about 80 kilometres west of a town called El Fashir in North Darfur. Before the conflict, we lived mainly on the food produced from our subsistence farmland. Now my parents find occasional jobs, but it’s not enough to meet our needs. 

I have been sick and malnourished since October. Around November, we received food aid from the World Food Programme (WFP), but because of the insecurity no further assistance has been available since. My mother took me to the nearby Government Public Health Clinic (PHC) in Korma and we got some medicine, but nothing to eat.

Around mid-January, some humanitarian aid workers spotted me looking severely emaciated. With their help, my mother and I reached the therapeutic feeding centre (TFC) in Abu Shouk Camp. I am 20 months old, 75.8 centimetres high and I weighed only 5.2 kilograms when I was put on the scale.

Because I was very weak, unable to chew and swallow the food I required, I was subjected to re-hydration therapy and a lot of drugs. I stayed at the TFC  for the next three days before being transferred to another TFC in El Fashir that is being managed by the Ministry of Health. I gained about 400 grams in weight and recovered enough to drink the milk supplied by UNICEF.

A friend of mine from the same village reached the same TFC one day before me but when I got there the next day I could only see his dead body.

The second stage of my recovery has brought me to the TFC at the Abu Shouk camp for people forced to flee their homes because of the conflict.

The threat of ongoing violence and severe food shortages in the village has convinced my mother to bring the rest of the family to live in the camp. Here we can eat, drink clean water, and my older siblings can go to school. Finally we can feel secure.



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