Image by UNHCR
Sudan – The condition at the Zamzam Camp in Northern Darfur, Sudan, is consistently referred to as “catastrophic” due to the daily occurrence of deaths caused by severe malnutrition and the absence of humanitarian services in the region.
Home to an estimated 300 000 internally displaced people, including men, women, and children, the Zamzam Camp is among the oldest and largest in Sudan. The 10-month-long war, which commenced in April 2023, has resulted in the camp being isolated from crucial humanitarian aid and medical supplies.
Consequently, a significant portion of the population, particularly women and children, is experiencing severe malnutrition, surpassing the emergency malnutrition threshold. Reports indicate 13 children are losing their lives each day, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
Jean-Guy Vataux, Head of the Mission for Sudan, attributes the escalating mortality rate to the camp’s continual nutrition deterioration. He also acknowledges the possibility of infectious and deadly diseases contributing to the crisis, with the potential for further worsening if unchecked.
“What has not contributed to that malnutrition rate would be outbreaks. You could have malnutrition rates rising because of outbreaks of diarrhoea and measles. We did not have such outbreaks yet, in those camps … [However] malnutrition caused more than half of the mortality.”
Given the urgent needs at the Zamzam Camp and the repercussions of the war, Jean suggests that similar dire conditions may exist in other camps across the country.
Humanitarian aid Urgently Needed in Sudan Before Situation Worsens
Before the outbreak of the war, several United Nations Agencies and International NGOs supported the health system in the Northern Darfur region. However, when the conflict began, the entire humanitarian response faced a sudden collapse due to disruptions in supply lines.
This left Doctors Without Borders (MSF) as the sole operational healthcare provider in the camp. Nevertheless, the small clinic operated by MSF is currently overwhelmed by the substantial number of patients seeking medical assistance.
According to Jean, insecurity, logistical challenges, and administrative obstacles have hindered the delivery of humanitarian workers and aid to its intended destinations. Nevertheless, he confirmed there has been a gradual improvement in recent months.
“The main constraint for humanitarian organisations in Darfur would be security, which has been bad in the past. It has improved recently, and we hope it stays this way. You also have logistical constraints and some administrative challenges … So it’s an accumulation of all those factors that make it difficult for NGOs to intervene.”
The Sudanese population in various displacement camps face a grave and urgent situation. Their plight should be acknowledged just as earnestly as the challenges faced by Palestinians.
Despite the ongoing war causing obstacles in aid distribution, Jean is optimistic that by ensuring security and implementing targeted expedited procedures, the critical shortage of food, water, and medical supplies among the Sudanese can be addressed.
“We need large food distributions in those camps. They have not been done for more than a year because of the security situation. We need water to be supplied at the moment. There’s no water supply to that population. We need a huge increase in healthcare. We are doing what we can as MSF, but we are far from being able to respond to all the needs of such a large population.”