As food prices in Sudan soar, malnutrition worsens

At least three million children under five are malnourished after a series of humanitarian crises.

Amna Mahmoud’s one-year-old daughter started to lose weight four months ago.

Mahmoud thought it was just a phase, but Hawa wasn’t getting enough to eat and her health continued to deteriorate. Now she’s being treated at a malnutrition centre in Kassala, a town in eastern Sudan.

“Even when I nurse her, there’s not enough to keep her full,” Mahmoud says, adding that the cost of food in markets has become too high. “Most of the time, we can afford to give her only milk.”

There are many mothers like her in Sudan, where the United Nations estimates that at least three million children under five are malnourished.

UNICEF says 20 percent of them suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Without treatment, about half will die, the UN agency says in a report.

The country is experiencing an array of humanitarian crises caused by flooding, rising food prices, conflict and disease.

Sudan has also been politically unstable. A 2019 uprising overthrew longtime President Omar al-Bashir, and a military coup replaced a civilian government last year.

Stunted growth

Asha Ahmed says malnutrition has stunted the growth of her eight-year-old son, Mahmoud.

“When he was four years old, he was eating little,” Ahmed says. “Sometimes he would go to bed without dinner. Now all his cousins and the kids in the neighborhood who were born around the same time as he was have grown, but he’s still the same height he was four years ago.”

A poor harvest has made the humanitarian crisis worse. Food prices have skyrocketed, leaving many more families struggling to feed their children.

According to the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET), staple food prices are 250 to 300 percent higher than they were least year.

“There is an urgent need for the different sectors to come together to address the root causes,” says Osman Said, head of UNICEF’s office in eastern Sudan.

“We’ve already started a cash transfer programme for mothers, and they are starting to come to centres for prenatal and postnatal checkups, but we need to expand that to include as many mothers as we can,” Said says.

In the malnutrition centre in Kassala, Amna hopes her daughter will regain her health soon. But she also fears that as long as she struggles to afford food, her daughter’s condition will only get worse.

Source: Al Jazeera