16 October 2009
ICRCOn World Food Day (16 October), the Red Cross is calling people to support its Darfur Crisis Appeal and help combat malnutrition through its feeding programme for children.
Around 150,000 people displaced by the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, are living in a sprawling camp next to Gereida town. The International Committee of the Red Cross’ nutrition programme supports malnourished children under the age of five and nursing mothers living in the camp and around Gereida.
British Red Cross delegate Teresia Nyutu works on the programme. She said: “The world has heard so much about deaths caused by malnutrition in Africa. But it is also important for people to know how many lives have been saved by food aid.”
One billion malnourished
This week, the UN reported there are now one billion malnourished people in the world, which means one sixth of humanity is suffering from hunger.
Teresia said: “When a household is hungry, then the entire social, psychological and general wellbeing of the family is affected. A child from a family that is struggling to get food will be more susceptible to diseases. Poor health will in turn affect a child’s concentration and they will most likely perform poorly in school.
“On another level, parents forced to go out of their usual routine to fend for the family, will leave older children to look after the younger ones, which can also be difficult for the children."
Teresia believes the Red Cross programme is making a difference. Results from a nutrition survey in August 2009 show severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Gereida at 0.5 per cent, which is a significant improvement to the SAM rate in 2005, which was 4.0 per cent.
“So far this year, over 2,000 children have been successfully treated for malnutrition,” Teresia said. “Educating people about malnutrition, informing communities about what it is and how it can be managed is the way forward. As well as treating children, we work with the parents and communities using health messages to change behaviour.”
Cultivating the land
Teresia said: “Some men have started going back to their villages to cultivate the land. During the last few months, many people have planted okra, millet, sorghum, watermelon, groundnuts and pumpkin, a few have maize and beans. I get the feeling that people are testing the waters before they make a final decision. One foot is in the camp and the other foot in their villages.
"I think the nutrition programme is going to be vital to sustaining the health of thousands of young children for some time to come.
“But I hope all the health, hygiene and nutrition education will help people remain vigilant and improve their child caring practices and health conditions when they do return to their villages.”
Read stories from survivors of the Darfur crisis