The desperate faces of children fleeing conflict in Sudan
UNICEF emergency response teams are on the ground providing support to vulnerable groups escaping Sudan
Severely malnourished, Chinhial Gathok, fled the fighting in Khartoum with her South Sudanese mother, father and sibling, and arrived in Renk County, Upper Nile State, bordering Sudan. The three-day journey from Sudan to Renk further deteriorated her fragile health.
Chinhail was screened at the transit site and sent to the Renk Outpatient Treatment Programme (OTP) center, where she spent three nights; her health deteriorated, and she was admitted to the Stabilisation Centre Hospital. The child was losing weight quickly and the initial medical assessment confirmed she was suffering Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). She also was tested positive for Malaria and was suffering from a watery diarrhea infection.
"We came a long way from Khartoum, and we had no food and water for the last three days on the way. I am worried about my child, she is severely wasted, and I need help," said Nyabur Kuol, the child's mother, who is also suffering from the impacts of the journey, and the horrific fighting they fled from in Sudan.
Tens of thousands of people, are fleeing the conflict in Sudan making their way to neighboring countries. The Government of South Sudan supported by UN Agencies are welcoming and supporting returning South Sudanese, as well as a growing number of Sudanese refugees and third country nationals arriving at various points across the vast and remote border between the two countries. More than 32,000 people, mostly South Sudanese, have arrived into South Sudan, as of early May.
UNICEF and partners are responding at the borders and transit sites with life-saving health, nutrition and child protection services, particularly for the most vulnerable like, Chinhial. Pregnant and lactating mothers and children are provided with nutrition supplements such as Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), CSB++ and BP-5 as well as essential medical care, vaccinations and mental health and psychosocial support.
Nyabur, who is relieved to have made it back to her home country is thankful to UNICEF and its partners, who received and supported them. But is deeply concerned about her children after the traumatic journey. "My husband remained at the transit site with my five-year-old son, and I am worried that he will also be getting malnourished due to the site's hardship," she added.
At the hospital, Chinhial was administered with further stabilizing therapeutic supplements; as well as antimalarial and antibiotics to treat her infection and malaria. However, with 22 children already admitted in the Stabilization Center from the highly vulnerable existing community in Renk, there is mounting pressure on frontline workers to ensure care for children like Chinhial Gathok, given the limited medicines available in the hospital.
Khamis Masak Stephen is in in-charge of the Stabilisation Center in Renk Hospital. He worries about increasing admission from returnees and the lack of treatment to cater for the admitted children.
UNICEF through its World Bank funded Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness (CERHSP) project is mobilizing further support for health to the border areas in Upper Nile and Unity States, to respond to the growing demands from increased arrivals. Life-saving nutrition supplies and services are provided through support from USAID across the entire region.