Refugee in South Sudan face poor nutrition status-UNHCR

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JUBA, South Sudan:

Over 24 thousand or 44% of refugee children under the age of 5 in South Sudan suffer from growth retardation or stunting, according to a nutrition survey findings published by UNHCR today.

The survey which was conducted among refugee children under 5 years old in 8 refugee camps and settlements across South Sudan in December 2017 revealed that 6.2 per cent or 3,391 out of the total of 54,172 refugee children under 5 years old were suffering from acute malnutrition.

Although below the emergency threshold of 15%, 6.2% prevalence indicates poor nutrition status of refugee children. The survey also revealed that 48% or 26,000 of refugee children were suffering from anaemia.

Overall nutrition status of refugee children has improved as compared to previous years, however the number of children suffering from stunting, acute malnutrition and anaemia remains to be a matter of high concern.

Both stunting and anaemia can have long-term negative consequences for children and affect children’s immune system as well as intellectual capacity and mental development

“Both stunting and anaemia can have long-term negative consequences for children and affect children’s immune system as well as intellectual capacity and mental development,” UNHCR Representative in South Sudan Johann Siffointe said, adding that more efforts and resources need to be invested in preventive measures.

In addition to the nutrition status of refugee children, the survey also looked into families’ coping mechanisms to offset lack of food. Over 80% of those polled during the survey stated resorting to negative coping strategies, including selling assets that would normally have not been sold, cash and food borrowings and reducing meal quantities and frequency.

Working closely with partners and other UN agencies, in particular, UNICEF and WFP, UNHCR is implementing a number of initiatives and programs that are called to address the problem of malnourished refugee children.

In particular, UNHCR together with partners have been implementing Comprehensive Management of Acute Malnutrition for all identified malnourished children, Blanket Supplementary Feeding Program for children under 2 years old and pregnant and lactating women as a malnutrition preventive measure.

In addition to awareness raising sessions aimed at promoting early initiation of breastfeeding and appropriate infant and young children feeding practices, UNHCR and its partners have also embarked on the implementation of a strategy that addresses the problem of anemia and micronutrient deficiencies.

“The solution to the problem of malnutrition among refugee children in South Sudan requires a holistic approach and should include, among others, provision of adequate healthcare and water and sanitation services and expansion of livelihoods activities to allow refugees to attain food security at a household level,” UNHCR Representative in South Sudan emphasized.