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New malnutrition treatment for children in Darfur

10 July 2009

A mother holds her baby in Gereida camp in Darfur, SudanRos Armitage/BRCMore than 16,000 children in Gereida camp in Darfur, western Sudan, are receiving a new treatment to prevent malnutrition.

The treatment, a peanut-based product called plumpy-doz, is being trialled during the region’s hungry season which peaks in June and July. Plumpy-doz, is enriched with micro-nutrients to give young children a much-needed nutritional boost.

Ros Armitage, conflict operations manager, said: “We know that this is the peak time for malnutrition and this year we are really prepared. In an attempt to prevent this seasonal upswing, we are giving plumpy-doz to all children in Gereida camp under the age of three.”

Saving children’s lives

The therapeutic feeding centre, run by the British Red Cross, Australian Red Cross and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), continues to treat hundreds of moderately and severely malnourished children.

Among them is baby Halima (pictured above), who was dangerously underweight when she arrived at the centre in December 2008. Today, she is a happy, healthy-looking baby. Her mother believes that without the Red Cross, she wouldn’t be alive today.

According to British Red Cross delegate Eric Oundo, this is what the feeding programme is all about. “We cannot get into the politics, but what is important is that we have rehabilitated children on the brink of dying, by addressing their health and nutritional needs,” he said.

Long-term support

More than 2.7 million people have been displaced in Darfur and 4.7 million people are affected by the ongoing conflict.

The British Red Cross has now been in working in Darfur for five years. Since 2007, it has focused its efforts on the feeding programme in Gereida. A nutrition survey in March showed that malnutrition levels in the camp have been kept under the emergency threshold.

“It’s very rewarding being able to plot our progress,” said Ros. “We have evidence to show how the programme is making a difference and giving children a second chance at life.”

Protecting livelihoods

Throughout Darfur, the ICRC continues to work in remote areas to try and stem the flow of people moving to overcrowded urban camps. It provides emergency assistance such as food, household items and health services and where possible helps protect people’s livelihoods.

In Jebel Marra and Jebel Si, in northern Darfur, it has recently distributed seeds, tools and food to 138,000 people.

“The food will help farmers concentrate on their farming activities instead of looking for daily jobs to enable them to feed their children," explains Delvin Walter of the ICRC.

Find out more about the Darfur crisis