Malnutrition rates in southern Chad are reaching critical levels, according to International Medical Corps’ assessments in the region. In Aboudeia health district nearly ten percent of girls under age five may be suffering from severe acute malnutrition. As the assessment was conducted at the beginning of Chad’s lean season and malnutrition rates are expected to worsen, International Medical Corps is urging the international community to immediately step up support before affected communities slide further into crisis.
“These severe acute malnutrition figures are extremely worrying, even for a region that regularly experiences food insecurity,” said Esther Busquet, International Medical Corps Roving Nutrition Advisor for the Sahel. “We are particularly concerned for the health of young girls, who appear to be especially badly affected.”
Causes of the current hunger crisis in Chad include a poor harvest in 2012, high food prices following increased demand from neighboring Sudan and limited access to nutrition and health services in remote areas. In addition, many people surveyed in the region lack access to clean drinking water, and water-related diseases remain common. Conditions such as diarrhea often contribute to malnutrition rates as sick children struggle to retain vital nutrients in food.
The screenings conducted at health centers in Aboudeia district found that levels of general acute malnutrition among children under five is 26 percent. The World Health Organization classifies these levels of malnutrition as an emergency. International Medical Corps would like to call attention to this potential large-scale humanitarian crisis and encourage the international community to immediately mobilize resources.
In the meantime, International Medical Corps continues to work with local health officials, donors and other stakeholders using existing resources to provide critical nutrition and health services to affected populations in Chad. In addition, the organization recognizes that a more integrated and preventive approach is needed to build resilience to malnutrition, addressing all causes, not just the shortages of food. As such, International Medical Corps is working on preventing child malnutrition through promotion of breastfeeding, use of food supplementation and education on proper weaning of children. The organization is also implementing community gardens and community education campaigns to increase knowledge on the root causes of malnutrition. However, these efforts are not enough to stem this growing humanitarian crisis. Given the urgent need that has been identified, International Medical Corps encourages the international community to come together to do more to address the problem.