Exploring the struggles of children living in a displaced camp
Unlocking UNICEF’s nutrition support: A path to healthier children in Malakal Protection of Civilians Site
Across South Sudan, more than 2.2 million people are internally displaced as a result of conflict, climate-related floods and drought, and poverty. Hundreds of thousands still reside in various Protection of Civilian (POC) and Internally Displaced (IDP) camps across the country.
In the conflict-affected State of Upper Nile, the Malakal Protection of Civilians Site (PoC) – is home to around 35,000 people and is currently swelling over capacity as tens of thousands of people fleeing the war in Sudan transit through Malakal.
For the more than 10,000 children who live in the camp, many born there and never known any existence outside its walls, disease and malnutrition/wasting are a constant threat. Conditions in the camp are harsh with all people relying on humanitarian assistance to survive. As of October 2021, the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) in Malakal County was at 17.8 % among children - data which is above the emergency threshold of 15%. Preliminary results from a recent survey conducted in September 2023 show similar findings.
However, aid workers work around the clock to treat and prevent severe wasting in children. At a health and nutrition center run by UNICEF’s partner – International Medical Corps, children and women living at the camp can access the treatment and care they need.
The center provides ready to Ready to Use Therapeutic Food, regular Vitamin A supplements, deworming and immunization, and other malnutrition prevention activities. In 2022, UNICEF health and nutrition sites in Malakal County registered 14,231 wasting cases in children, and pregnant and lactating mothers. However, the program managed to fully treat 13,655 cases – leaving the overall cure rate across nutrition programs in Malakal County at 96%.
Josephina Pagan, a mother of five and resident in the camp has benefited from the nutrition/health facility. According to Josephine, she learned important nutrition lessons during her time at the facility when her son Mubarak was admitted for malnutrition.
When I gave birth to my son Mubarak, his situation after birth was so bad. He was born underweight. But I brought him here, he got treated and we were later discharged.
"After some months, he again became malnourished, and he had to be re-admitted."
“During my times at the facility with him, I was taught nutrition lessons especially on proper feeding for children and guidelines I should follow for the child to remain healthy and safe after birth. I took them seriously and applied them when I gave birth to my latest boy. Since then, he has never gotten sick. He is about to turn 2 in a few months” Josephine said.
She added that her son’s successful treatment and the nutrition knowledge she gained at the facility inspired her to join a Mother-to-Mother Support Group and was appointed as the residential area leader in 2017.
“This center has been instrumental in our lives. During times when there is conflict in and around Malakal and in the POC, many people lacked food, but nutrition supplies here helped us sustain the lives of our children who would be severely affected by conflict otherwise” she said.
Meanwhile, Teresa Joseph – a mother of three who also resides in the POC camp, acknowledged that the facility plays a crucial role in supporting the health of children and women.
This nutrition center means a lot to children’s health because when infants are not well, they are brought here for nutrition treatment. The therapeutic foods offered here have kept many children alive.
“Without this facility inside the PoC, many children would have died, simply because the workers here have supported Mother to Mother Groups which give communities nutrition and hygiene information. My sincere thanks to those supporting this facility” she said.
Stephen Simon Kuol is a Maternal, Infant, and Young Children Nutrition Officer overseeing the activities and operation of the center that receives around 30 patients per day. Stephen described the center as a game changer in reducing maternal and infant mortality rates in Upper Nile State.
To be honest, the PoC without these services would be a disaster because people here have been in crisis since 2013, and thus they are depending on the services we are providing in this facility. This facility is a big game changer in the reduction of maternal and child mortality.
“We have achieved a lot in this nutrition facility. There was a recent case of a child who fled conflict in Sudan having pediatric edema during our door-to-door screenings. The mother did not know her child was malnourished, and she had given up. But when we admitted the baby, he got treated and later became well, and the child and the mother were left joyous,” said Simon.
Through the World Bank-supported COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project (CERHSP), UNICEF is playing a crucial role in providing nutrition services in Upper Nile State, in efforts to ensure no child is lost to wasting. This has resulted in the training of 582 nutrition and health workers on community management of malnutrition (CMAM), and infant and young child feeding (IYCF), and the treatment of 11,660 children from wasting, between January and July in 2023.
The program has also led to the establishment of 131 service delivery points which provided IYCF services to 73,025 caregivers and to an outreach of 204,492 children (6-59 months) with Vitamin A supplements across Upper Nile State.
In addition to the CERHSP, UNICEF South Sudan’s nutrition programmes in Upper Nile and across South Sudan are generously supported with funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the German Corporation through the KFW Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UK Aid, Canada and UNICEF National Committees.