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Nutritional health improves for Sudanese refugees in Chad; locals face crisis, says report

Nutritional health improves for Sudanese refugees in Chad; locals face crisis, says report

A just-concluded joint mission by UNHCR and the World Food Programme has concluded that the nutritional health of Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad has stabilised in recent months, and called for a concerted effort to help malnourished Chadians living near the camps and border with Sudan.
5 November 2004
Midwives with malnourished babies at the supplementary feeding centre at Oure Cassoni camp in eastern Chad.

GENEVA, Nov 5 (UNHCR) - A joint mission by the UN refugee agency and the World Food Programme has found that the nutritional health of Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad has stabilised in recent months, but warned of a nutritional crisis for their Chadian hosts living nearby.

The mission, which ended on Thursday, noted that fewer refugees are being admitted to therapeutic feeding centres in the camps, and that improvements have also been made in the food distribution pipeline, vaccination campaigns and water quality.

These findings indicate improvements in nutritional health among refugee children (to be confirmed by upcoming nutrition surveys) since a June interagency study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. The June study indicated that 38.8 percent of the children surveyed suffered from global acute malnutrition while another 6.4 percent showed severe acute malnutrition. Ten percent malnutrition and about 2 percent severe malnutrition are considered normal levels during a humanitarian emergency.

A blanket supplementary feeding programme, which started in August and is scheduled to end in January, has benefited more than 50,000 children under five years old as well as pregnant and lactating women in the camps. Thousands of Chadians have also benefited from the programme.

Overall, however, the joint mission warned that the nutritional health of the Chadian population living near the refugee camps and along the border with Sudan has deteriorated seriously because of factors like two consecutive poor rainy seasons, the decimation of cattle herds, overused grazing lands, and the depletion of food reserves due to sharing with the refugees. Some 40 percent of Chadian children are suffering from chronic malnutrition, compared to 17 percent under normal circumstances.

Preparing a special mix of sugar, oil and corn-soya blend for the malnourished children.

The report called for a concerted effort to help these destitute Chadians, including facilitating further access by the local population to the supplementary feeding programme.

The mission also recommended carrying out a follow-up nutritional survey that would include villages surrounding the refugee camps in order to identify the nutritional needs of the local population. It called for the extension of the current programme to monitor the adequacy of refugee general food rations and efficiency of the food distribution system (food basket monitoring), as well as the establishment of monitoring of food use after distribution (post distribution monitoring), given what the mission saw as the need for greater supervision during the general food distributions and numerous irregularities in the registration process. These two programmes would provide necessary information about the efficiency of the nutritional programmes and serve as a tool for future planning.

The joint mission placed special emphasis on the need to carry out a computerised verification of the refugee population, currently estimated at nearly 186,000 people in 11 camps. The new census should be carried out by going from tent to tent in each camp. UNHCR and WFP will work together closely in the planning and execution of the exercise.