Malnutrition on the rise in Pibor

The number of children suffering from acute malnutrition in Pibor of Boma state and its outskirts, has trebled compared to the last years, Médecins Sans Frontières-Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said.

The organization, which runs an Inpatient Therapeutic Feeding Centre (ITFC) in Pibor and two Ambulatory Feeding Centres (ATFC) in Lekongele and Gumuruk, is calling on other organizations to boost their activities as these worrying numbers are likely to keep on rising in the challenging months ahead.

In a statement to Juba Monitor yesterday, Jean Soro, the MSF Nurse who manages the organization’s medical programmes in Pibor said in recent weeks they have seen and treated with increasing numbers of malnourished children.

“In May, one of our patients in Pibor died from malnutrition and we are worried that more lives will be lost if preventative action is not taken” she said.

In May, MSF admitted 146 children suffering from acute malnutrition to two of its clinics outside Pibor, compared to 69 patients, the same time last year.  MSF states it is also concerned at the high proportion of children with severe acute malnutrition.

In Lekongele, 4.46% of consultations are for severe acute malnutrition, while 23% are for general acute malnutrition. “A number of factors have combined to make this year’s hunger gap especially hard,” explains Jean Soro.

“The lack of food distribution, which in the past has helped families through these challenging months, is making matters even worse.”

Every year, Pibor experiences a peak of malnutrition during the ‘hunger gap’, which starts in April.  This is the time between harvests, when food often runs scarce.

The hunger gap is taking a heavy toll this year due to environmental and economic factors, the impact of the ongoing conflict coupled with a lack of aid provision.

Irregular rains have reduced the quality and quantity of crops available. Recent clashes blocked the main supply road from the capital city, Juba, for several months, reducing the quantity of food available.

Food prices have also risen dramatically; the cost of some basic food items, such as sorghum, has quadrupled in the past three months. There is also a larger population living in the area, after people relocated from Juba to Pibor due to insecurity.

“Distributing food to the community in and around Pibor would make a huge difference in tackling acute malnutrition and avoiding unnecessary deaths,” said Soro.

She added there is a real need for more health services, especially supplementary feeding programmes, targeted to vulnerable groups, including those living outside of Pibor.

MSF is calling on other organizations working in and around Pibor to distribute food and run supplementary feeding programmes, targeted to vulnerable groups such as pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under five.

Health support also needs to reach those who are living outside of Pibor; during the rainy season, as roads become extremely difficult, reaching a health centre can become close to impossible for people living in remote areas.

“A few weeks ago, we admitted a one-year-old baby girl whose weight was only six kilos. She started getting sick with fever and diarrhoea, but her family lives three days’ walking distance from MSF’s clinic, so it took her some time to reach us. By the time she did, she was extremely malnourished and in a critical condition,” Soro said.

By Sasuk Taban


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