International Medical Corps Provides Long Term Nutrition Support in South Sudan
October 3, 2014 – Los Angeles, Calif. – International Medical Corps continues to closely monitor the evolution of the nutrition crisis in South Sudan. The torrential rains in this region during the months of July, August and September made roads and rivers impassible, which made it even more challenging for aid agencies to provide necessary services. This season came on the heels of six months of war that has uprooted 1.1 million people. While men, women and children leave their homes in search of safety from violence, they face further dangers such as hunger, disease and other medical concerns. Displaced persons have been unable to plant crops and therefore the country is unable to feed itself. Humanitarian assistance is crucial to the survival of the people of South Sudan; however, access and security concerns to the highest priority areas with little or no nutrition support remains a serious problem. International Medical Corps is working with other UN and NGO agencies to improve access to these areas.
International Medical Corps has been working in South Sudan since 1994, 10 years before the peace accord was signed. Today, we deliver health services in six of South Sudan’s ten states to nearly half a million in South Sudan and work to address maternal health, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, food security, water and sanitation. International Medical Corps is expanding its nutrition programs in preparation of the looming famine. We currently support five outpatient treatment programs, six blanket supplementary feeding programs, four target supplementary feeding programs and three stabilization centers across six different counties in Upper Nile, Jonglei, Central Equatoria and Lakes State. We work in both rural and urban areas through 46 health facilities, including two hospitals. We provide approximately 20,000 consultations per month through these facilities.
Following the outbreak of heavy fighting in early 2014 in Malakal, capital of Upper Nile State, at least 30,000 IDPs sought refuge at a UN base and in the grounds of churches in Malakal. International Medical Corps leads the nutrition programs in Malakal and is the only health partner providing Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) services to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). International Medical Corps addressed the immediate needs of the local population by treating more than 460 injuries resulting from the conflict. Since January 28th, we have provided more than 10,000 health consultations in clinics at the United Nations’ compound in Malakal. In addition, 25 International Medical Corps-trained community nutrition volunteers and health promoters have provided routine nutritional screening and treatment referral of both children under 5 and pregnant and breastfeeding women. Community outreach to mothers has resulted in the establishment of 120 mother care groups, which hold two sessions per week on infant and young child feeding practices. Since January 29th, International Medical Corps has screened more than 6,900 children for malnutrition. Our teams organized training for health professionals in cholera prevention and treatment. Community health volunteers and national staff were also trained on the importance of vaccination for measles and polio.
Across Awerial County, an estimated 31,000 people are displaced, having been forced from their homes by fierce fighting in the town of Bor. Since January 6, International Medical Corps has conducted 2,789 health consolations in the county, with focus on smaller, isolated communities that have received little or no access to services. Mobile medical clinics, providing basic primary health care, maternal health, and nutrition screenings, are reaching IDPs living in in the villages of Yelakot, Kalthok and Wun Tua. International Medical Corps has also been providing mobile health and nutrition services by boat to the islands of Mathiang, Matoro, Nyindeng and Malual, where few other humanitarian actors are operating. The nutrition programs also cover outpatient treatment for severe acute malnutrition without medical complications, as well as targeted supplementary feeding for children under five and pregnant and lactating women. Our services have ensured approximately 1,200 children and 500 pregnant and lactating women have been screened for malnutrition and admitted to the appropriate treatment programs. Currently, there has been adequate rainfall in this region and maize and vegetables are available although planting has been affected due to lack of access to seeds. Also, host communities and IDPs fish alongside the river, although fishing tools are inadequate.
In Juba, International Medical Corps is providing primary health care and reproductive health services at the UN House and Tongping camps in Juba, where it serves as the co-lead in health programs in coordination with WHO. More than 4,000 health consultations have been conducted since January 6. International Medical Corps is also working alongside WHO and UNICEF to vaccinate children under five, as well as supporting the Ministry of Health in mass vaccination campaigns at the UN House camp. International Medical Corps is also in the process of setting up an operating theatre in Juba 3, to serve as an emergency surgical unit, focused on complicated deliveries International Medical Corps will continue to closely monitor the situation in South Sudan, particularly in the states of Upper Nile and Jonglei, given the tension due to active hostilities. International Medical has provided humanitarian assistance in southern Sudan for 20 years. Communities across South Sudan have been supported by the organization since independence in 2011.
In Akobo, International Medical Corps continues to operate robust nutrition programs. The team is expecting supplies this month which will be utilized for the next round of targeted supplemental feeding programs. Heavy rains have continued in this area for three consecutive weeks after farmers had already lost a large portion of their crops. There is little enthusiasm amongst farmers to re-plant despite NGO distribution of seeds.
International Medical Corps, with the County Health Department, conducted a survey in Akobo East County to establish the extent and severity of acute malnutrition and determine the contributing factors of malnutrition. The results of the survey are very concerning. The nutrition situation in Akobo East County is classified as “critical” according to the WHO classification. The situation is expected to deteriorate. Food security is also of great concern in the county as meal diversification is low and most people are surviving on cereals and tubers. This was mainly due to the low food production as a result of the increased insecurity in the area. People rely mostly of purchasing food that is imported from Ethiopia and is costly. Based on the results of this study, International Medical Corps recommends that participating partners should initiate a rigorous mass screening in the county with all the malnourished children being referred to the centers for treatment. The partners then should pre-position the rations in all the service delivery points. Partners should also scale up nutrition and outreach services in the hard-to-reach areas.