Gallery: Alarming malnutrition rates in Leer, South Sudan

Alarming malnutrition rates are being recorded in parts of South Sudan. In Leer, a town nestled in the swampy marshlands that surround the White Nile river, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is seeing this problem first hand.

“Before the conflict, we used to have around 200 children admitted into the ambulatory therapeutic feeding centre (ATFC) at any one time,” says Grace Ayuelu medical team leader in Leer. She has been working in Leer hospital for almost a year. “But now, we have over 1,800 children. That is a big number.”

Fleeing conflict

Much has contributed to this situation. After the conflict that erupted in South Sudan in mid-December 2013, many people’s houses in Leer, as well as the MSF hospital, were looted and razed to the ground.

To escape the conflict people fled into the bush, going months without anything to eat other than wild roots and whatever else could be gathered from the land.

Now, with people returning to Leer, the partially destroyed MSF hospital is up and running again albeit at half the capacity.

Ambulatory feeding

Today, the busiest area of Leer hospital is the ATFC.  Here, children under five-years-old are brought to the hospital to assess their level of nutrition.

Taking measurements of their height, weight and mid-upper arm circumferences (MUAC) the majority of children who come through the ATFC are found to be moderately malnourished.

“In these cases,” says Grace, “they are sent home with a week’s supply of a ready-to-use therapeutic food called Plumpy’Nut, a peanut-based paste, and come back every week to be reassessed until they are back to normal health.”

Treating malnutrition

If children are severely malnourished, they have to be admitted into the intensive therapeutic feeding centre. Here, their feeding can be closely monitored and drugs can be prescribed to combat any other complications that can be a factor in recovering from malnutrition.

This was the case with two-year-old Gatluok…