WHO steps up efforts to reach severely malnourished children with life-saving treatment in South Sudan

Regina Archangelo, walked in to the stabilization center inside Wau Teaching Hospital carrying her weak six months old twin boys Ochan and Opio. One could easily notice that not only the twins, the mother too was frail and underweight.

The twins are among the estimated over 261 000 children in South Sudan suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in 2018. Luckily, their parents were able to take them to Wau Teaching hospital, former Western Bahr el Ghazal State.

“My boys have become weak, with a lot of diarrhoea and vomiting all the time,” says Regina recalling her twin’s condition. “I breastfeed them and also give them supplementary milk but they keep getting diarrhea, vomiting, cough and were losing weight day by day.” I was so worried about how sick they were,” she recalled.

“After three days of treatment at the stabilization center, I have started seeing the improvement, said Regina.  No vomiting and no coughing, their diarrhoea has subsided, and now they are showing signs of recovery.”

Regina and the twins had just arrived in Wau from Wau North payam a week ago. Inside the stabilization center, over 10 malnourished children lay waiting to receive treatment. Some of them suffer from burn marks in their body, a side effect indicating the most severe stage of the disease.

In South Sudan, insecurity coupled with worsening economic crisis has resulted in high food prices, local currency devaluation and hyperinflation, which in turn eroded household purchasing power. In addition, an anticipated earlier-than-normal start of the lean season in many areas further hampered people’s food security, threatening the survival of the most vulnerable population in hard to reach areas. Acute malnutrition has worsened compared to the same period in 2016 and remains high in many parts of South Sudan including Wau County of former Western Bahr el Ghazal state.

In response to the worsening situation, WHO has doubled its support for inpatient facilities in areas affected by critical emergency and humanitarian catastrophe. So far 89 WHO severe acute malnutrition (SAM) kits have been provided to 41 stabilization centers between July and December 2017.  WHO has also sustained the provision of essential medical supplies to 13 facilities and has scaled up its support to 17 new health facilities including the stabilization centers in Wau County. One kit can treat and save the lives of 50 malnourished patients. The WHO SAM kits contain medicines including antibiotics, antimalarial, treatment for diarrhoea, diagnostic kits and treatment for diseases like malaria, and supplies including thermometers, gloves and syringes. Over 5 000 children that have severe acute malnutrition with medical complications have been treated at the centres. 

Out of the estimated over 261 000 children to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition this year, at least 10 to 15% are expected to develop medical complications. Without proper treatment, children with severe acute malnutrition are ten times more likely to die than their healthier peers, says Ms Marina Adrianopoli, Technical Officer for Nutrition at WHO South Sudan. The stabilization centres in Wau are among the few centers in former Western Bahr el Ghazal State supported by WHO to treat severely malnourished children suffering from medical complications.

 “A malnourished child is a sick child, says Mr Evans Liyosi, WHO Representative a.i for South Sudan. The child needs medical treatment to control medical complications such as fever, diarrhoea and pneumonia.” The provision of medical supplies along with capacity building training program on inpatient care to prevent child mortality is the utmost priority of WHO, says Mr Liyosi.

WHO will continue to work with the Ministry of Health and partners to improve access to severe acute malnutrition treatment services.

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For Additional Information or to Request Interviews, Please contact:
Ms Marina Adrianopoli

Email: madrianopoli [at] who.int
Tel: +211 954 918 382

Ms Jemila M. Ebrahim

Communications Officer
Mobile: +211 921 647 859
Email: ebrahimj [at] who.int