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Press Release

For Immediate Release
August 6, 2004
Contact: CDC Media Relations

CDC Survey Documents Serious Crisis In Sudanese Refugee Children

HHS/CDC recommend immediate increase in feeding programs,
food rations, and public health measures

Sudanese children in refugee camps in northeastern Chad risk serious illness or death from lack of food, clean water, shelter, and health care, say survey findings released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The emergency nutrition and mortality survey performed by CDC in June at the request of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found acute malnutrition at rates of up to 39% in refugee camps and border settlements. A rate above 20% signals a serious crisis, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

“Sudanese refugee children in Chad are experiencing a major nutritional crisis similar to those seen in Ethiopia in 1999 and in Goma in 2000,” said Dr. Basia Tomczyk, CDC epidemiologist and survey team leader. “The good news is that public health intervention now would save children’s lives.”

CDC found that among children ages 6 months to 5 years in refugee camps and border settlements

  • 36–39 percent are malnourished,
  • 35–58 percent have diarrhea, and
  • measles vaccination is inadequate (ranging from 24–83 percent in the camps and settlements) to prevent outbreaks

Factors contributing to the crisis, in addition to insufficient food, include lack of drinking water and sanitation and limited availability and access to health and nutritional care. The health crisis is complicated by onset of the rainy season and continuing threats of violence, which make it difficult for aid workers to reach populations along the Chad– Sudanese border.

The CDC survey team recommends immediate steps to reduce the threat:

  • Increase and expand supplemental feeding programs (high-quality dietary supplements for moderately malnourished people).
  • Increase and expand therapeutic feeding programs (intensive medical care and dietary treatment for severely malnourished people).
  • Increase the general food ration for the entire refugee population.
  • Expand measles vaccination to children ages 6 months to 15 years.
  • Increase treatment and prevention of diarrheal diseases.
  • Increase water, shelter, sanitation and health services.

“UNHCR welcomes the report and, in close collaboration with partners, has already begun to implement its recommendations,” said UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Kamel Morjane.

To date this year, the U.S. Government has provided $28.6 million for emergency refugee assistance in eastern Chad, including $14.2 million to the UNHCR, $8.9 million to the World Food Program, and $5.5 million to other non-governmental organizations and international organizations. Additional international donor support is urgently needed.

The CDC survey report is available at:

The survey project involved multiple agencies, including UNHCR, United Nations Children's Fund, World Health Organization, World Food Program, Chadian Ministry of Health’s Centre National de Nutrition et Technique Alimentaire, Médecins Sans Frontières–Belgium, International Medical Corps, and International Rescue Committee.

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