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Death rate soars for Darfur’s children

© UNICEF/HQ04-0271/Nesbitt
A woman cradles her malnourished toddler, in Kutum Hospital, North Darfur

NEW YORK, 13 September 2004 – Death rates among people who have been forced to flee their homes in Darfur are up to ten times higher than is normal for the rest of Sudan’s population. Thousands of children are dying every month from diseases that are usually preventable and easily treatable. These are the stark findings of a survey just completed by the World Health Organization and Sudan’s Ministry of Health in North and West Darfur. 

Diarrhoea is linked to 75 per cent of deaths among children under the age of five. Fever, respiratory diseases and injuries inflicted during violent attacks on villagers are other major causes of death.

Mortality rates in these areas far surpass the mark that aid agencies use to define a humanitarian crisis – which is one death per 10,000 people per day.  In North Darfur, the rate is 1.4 deaths per 10,000 people per day, and in West Darfur it is 2.9.

Children are succumbing to a deadly array of threats: Extreme overcrowding in camps for displaced people, shortage of clean water, inadequate latrines and appalling sanitary conditions in which rain-soaked mud mingles with human excreta.  Many families have no shelter other than small, tarpaulin-covered huts which are highly vulnerable to the season’s heavy rains and winds.

UNICEF and its partner aid agencies have been working hard to improve water, sanitation and health services – 700,000 displaced people now have access to safe water, 30,000 latrines have been built and 127 health facilities are reaching 950,000 people.  But Darfur’s displaced population of 1.2 million is camped in 129 settlements spread across a region the size of France, and many families are still not being reached.

As long as attacks continue in Darfur and displaced people are afraid to return to their villages, a much greater effort is needed to provide adequate water, sanitation, food and health services.  As yet, aid agencies have only received about half the funding they need for their operations in Darfur.

The survey team collected data by speaking directly to displaced people in 1500 households in North and West Darfur.




13 September 2004: Death rates soar for Darfur’s children. UNICEF’s Francis Mead reports.

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