20 February 2009
Ros Armitage/BRCAs the hungry season in Darfur approaches, the British Red Cross is appealing for funds to treat malnourished children. There is just one harvest in Darfur. People plant in July when the rains start and harvest around November.
Emily Knox, conflict support officer, said: “By April people are starting to run out of food and it is a struggle to get by until the next harvest. The situation is made worse by the conflict, which limits access to farmland, resulting in poor crops.”
Gereida camp in Darfur is home to 130,000 people displaced by the conflict, where the International Committee of the Red Cross runs a feeding centre for malnourished children, supported by the British Red Cross and the Australian Red Cross.
Between April and November there is less food available. The hungry season is also made worse as it coincides with the rainy season between July and September. During this time sanitation problems cause increased diarrhoea, hepatitis and malaria, which all have a negative impact on the health and nutrition of the population.
Availability of food in the markets and delivery of food aid is also affected by roads becoming inaccessible in the rains.
Red Cross response
In the Gereida feeding centre, the hungry season is a critical time with higher numbers of malnourished children being admitted. The British Red Cross currently has two delegates working there, but another nutritionist will be sent by the Australian Red Cross to support the increased needs from April to September.
Emily said: “Because of an integrated approach of providing people with food, water and nutrition, so far a major crisis has been averted. The British Red Cross has played a key role in this since the situation deteriorated in 2004. During the hungry season, it is really important that we are able to increase our support to vulnerable children, but at the moment we urgently need more funds.
“Darfur remains a volatile situation. Some people cannot go home because their homes may have been destroyed or they have limited access to land. For now, some people feel there is no alternative for them but to struggle on in the camps. Others require support in order to prevent them being displaced from their home villages.”
Making a difference
When four-month-old Halima arrived at the feeding centre she weighed just 2.9 kilograms. Red Cross nurse Ruth Jebb explained: “We will keep Halima until she is at least six months old and has been weaned. We will do this using special biscuits, which we make into a porridge.”
Shortly after Halima’s birth, her mother, Asha, suffered from a vitamin deficiency. She was too weak to walk and could not supply enough milk. As a result, Halima became ill and was diagnosed with TB.
Halima was treated for this and given four milk feeds daily in the feeding centre. She made good progress and a few months later her weight had increased to 4.7 kilograms. The Red Cross gave Asha injections of vitamin B and she also made a full recovery.
More about the Darfur Crisis Appeal