About 500 children have died from hunger in Sudan, including two dozen babies in a government-run orphanage in the capital of Khartoum, since fighting erupted in the East African country in April, a leading aid group said on Tuesday.
‘Save the Children’ also said that at least 31,000 children lack access to treatment for malnutrition and related illnesses since the charity was forced to close 57 of its nutrition centres in Sudan.
Sudan was plunged into chaos after months-long tensions between the military and a rival paramilitary force exploded into open fighting on April 15. The conflict has turned Khartoum and other urban areas into battlefields. Many residents live without water and electricity, and the country's healthcare system has nearly collapsed.
“Never did we think we would see children dying from hunger in such numbers, but this is now the reality in Sudan,” said Arif Noor, Save the Children's director for Sudan. “We are seeing children dying from entirely preventable hunger,” he said.
The violence in Sudan is estimated to have killed at least 4,000 people, according to Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the UN human rights office. Activists and doctors on the ground, however, say the death toll is likely far higher.
More than 4.4 million people were forced to flee their homes either to safer areas in Sudan or cross into neighbouring countries, according to the UN migration agency.
Save the Children said that between May and July, at least 316 children, mostly under 5 years of age, died of malnutrition or associated illnesses in the southern White Nile province. More than 2,400 more children have been admitted to hospitals in the past eight months with severe acute malnutrition- the deadliest form of malnutrition, it added.
In the eastern Qadarif province, at least 132 children died from malnutrition in the government-run Children's Hospital between April and July. At least 50 children, including two dozen babies, died of starvation or related illnesses in an orphanage in Khartoum in the first six weeks of the conflict as the fighting prevented Save the Children staff from accessing the building to care for them, the charity said.
Save the Children also warned that special food supplies for treating malnutrition were running critically low at 108 facilities it still operates across Sudan.
Meanwhile, clashes have raged this week around a military camp south of Khartoum as the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces have attempted to seize the crucial facility, the warring sides reported.
Fierce battles were reported last week in Nyala, the provincial capital of South Darfur. The sprawling Darfur region saw some of the worst bouts of violence in the conflict with the fighting turning into ethnic clashes.