Tens of thousands of Sudanese children on the brink of death before the year ends

This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Spokesperson James Elder – to whom quoted text may be attributed - at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

24 September 2023
nutrition, Sudan, malnutrition, infant nutrition, health, boy, girl, infant, nutrition screening, MUAC
UNICEF Sudan/2023/Mohamdeen

Geneva, 19Sep2023 – “On the back of a cruel disregard for civilians and the relentless attacks on health and nutrition services, UNICEF fears many thousands of newborns will die between now and the end of the year. 

“333,000 children will be born in Sudan between October and December. They and their mothers need skilled delivery care. However in country where millions are either trapped in warzones or displaced, and where there are grave shortages of medical supplies, such care is becoming less likely by the day.

“Nutrition services are equally devastated. Every month 55,000 children require treatment for the most lethal form of malnutrition. And yet in Khartoum less than one in 50 nutrition centres is functional, in West Darfur it’s one in 10. 

“Official casualty numbers put the number of all children killed in fighting in Sudan at 435. Given the utter devastation to the lifesaving services children rely on, UNICEF fears Sudan’s youngest citizens are entering a period of unprecedented mortality. The longer the conflict continues and low funding levels persist, the more devastating the impact. This is the cost of inaction.

“I have just returned from Sudan. I cannot tell you how many people pleaded for support. Teachers, traders, architects, and most certainly pregnant mothers– all displaced. Families arriving scared, hungry and having left all their belongings behind. 

“Women and girls are continually terrorised during their escape. There are more and more reports of children recruited into armed groups. And Sudan is now one of the most dangerous places for aid workers. 

“Despite the risks and blatant disregard for civilian life, UNICEF and partners are delivering for children across all 18 states of Sudan, including in the hot spots. Despite all challenges, since the conflict began, UNICEF, with partners, has reached 5.1 million people with health supplies, 2.8 million people with safe drinking water, 2.9 million children with malnutrition screening – of whom 152,200 received life-saving treatment, 300,000 mothers and households received cash in support of their resilience, and over 282,000 children and caregivers with psychosocial counselling, learning, and protection support through over 464 safe spaces established across the country.” 

“But we need funds -- as of this month, UNICEF’s appeal for US$838 million to reach almost 10 million children is less than a quarter funded. Such a funding gap will mean lives lost. 

“Social sector spending is on a steep decline. If UNICEF and UN partners cannot mobilize additional support, this may well result in the collapse of basic social services in Sudan. 

“Frontline workers have not been paid for months. Not days, not weeks. Rather, in a country with 200 per cent inflation, frontline workers – nurses, doctors, teachers, social workers – have not received a salary in months. And yet they turn up to work. Indeed, they likely work longer hours, given the needs this war creates. As a nutritionist told me: ‘These are children, they are living in a war, and so as long as we can help, we will’. And yet their character and dedication cannot restock fast depleting supplies or repair blown up hospitals.
“Finally, UNICEF is deeply concerned that schools in Sudan won’t open. Sudan is already facing one of the largest learning crises in the world, with more than seven million children out of school, and 12 million waiting for the schools to re-open. For children education is about more than the right to learn. Schools can protect children from the physical dangers around them – including abuse, exploitation, and recruitment into armed groups. Should the conflict result in schools remaining closed, this will have devastating impacts for children’s development and psychosocial wellbeing.

“Of course, much more effort needs to go into stopping this war. But as the senseless attacks on civilians and social services continue, UNICEF needs financial support, and safe and unimpeded access for frontline workers.”

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Media contacts

James Elder
Tel: 0041799415298


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