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Press centre

Joint press release

Massive aid effort contains growth of malnutrition in Darfur

KHARTOUM, 19 October 2006 – Despite the deteriorating security situation in Darfur, a new United Nations assessment has found that overall malnutrition levels have mostly stabilized in 2006 and food insecurity has improved slightly thanks to a stronger international response to the suffering in Sudan’s war-torn west. Crude mortality dropped for the third year running, but insecurity and lack of access to many Darfurians continued to cloud the aid picture.

The assessment also found that while the malnutrition rate among children under five rose slightly, from 11.9 per cent last year to 13.1 per cent this year, hovering just beneath the emergency threshold of 15 per cent, they remained significantly below the 2004 malnutrition rates in Darfur which stood at 21.8 per cent.

UN humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations have been able to deliver life-saving services including food aid, clean water, health services and agricultural assistance. However, the condition of those in greatest need remains very precarious.

Preliminary results of the joint assessment by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF and the World Food Programme found that 70 per cent of war-affected Darfurians were food insecure, slightly down from 74 per cent last year. While the remaining 30 per cent of this year’s war-affected people required some form of assistance, they had more diverse diets, spent less than 50 per cent of their income on food and relied less on food aid.

But the UN agencies cautioned that the continued flow of aid is under threat because of escalating violence, which is restricting access to war and drought-affected people, exacerbating the already fragile situation.

Approximately 60 per cent of highly food insecure households mentioned insecurity as the main barrier to cultivating their land, raising livestock and taking part in other income-generating activities.

The assessment also showed that the per centage of people with adequate access to food among those living in displacement camps had actually dropped from 36 per cent in 2005 to just 14 per cent in 2006.

Furthermore, the number of families who said they could reach feeding centres for malnourished children had halved as the result of deteriorating security and because some feeding centres closed after malnutrition figures improved last year

The assessment, which sampled households from the 3.7 million people receiving aid, out of the total 6 million people in Darfur, pointed out some progress. But due to insecurity and bad weather, the assessment teams were unable to reach some critical areas where aid has not been received for several months.

Access to clean water rose from 63 per cent to 72 per cent, vital to reducing disease and mortality caused by contaminated drinking water. Also, the food security of the resident community has improved slightly across Darfur, and the assessment found a direct connection between food security and people’s ability to cultivate and generate income.

In North Darfur, where the majority of those covered by the assessment were residents, food security has improved despite humanitarian access problems in recent months. But in South and West Darfur, food security declined because of comparatively higher numbers of displaced people living in camps, the majority who cannot cultivate.

Across Darfur, 51 per cent of families cultivated their land this year, the same number as last year. State by state, households cultivated 59 per cent in North Darfur, 48 per cent in South Darfur and 46 per cent in West Darfur. Beside insecurity, Darfurians said water shortages, lack of tools, pests, weeds, crop disease and shortage of seeds prevented them from cultivating more.

The sale of agriculture production was the main source of income for just 20 per cent of people in Darfur, while wage labour mostly in agriculture was the main income source for 37 per cent.

The assessment was conducted in September and sampled 2,200 households across 89 locations in the three states of Darfur. It found that 22 per cent of households were female-headed and that 53 per cent of household heads were illiterate.


For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Sudan, Tel: +249 (0)183 471835, Mob: +249 (0)912 177291, ecarwardine@unicef.org
Michael Bociurkiw, UNICEF Geneva, + 41 79 216 9401, mbociurkiw@unicef.org
Simon Crittle, WFP Sudan, Tel: +249 (0)183 248001 ext. 2142, Mob: +249 (0)912 167293, simon.crittle@wfp.org
Brenda Barton, WFP Rome, Tel: +39 06 65132602, Mob: +39 347 258 2217, brenda.barton@wfp.org
Marc Abdala, FAO Sudan, +249 (0)183 779367/68, Marc.Abdala@fao.org
Luca Russo, FAO Rome, +39 06570 Ext. 53511, Luca.Russo@fao.org




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