Darfur: Nutritious Food Helps Displaced Family Face ‘Hunger Season’

With the next harvest still a couple of months away, food is scarce in north Darfur. This is a time when children can slip into malnutrition. But Fatima, who has two kids in the crucial under-five age range, is getting the support she needs to steer her family through the hunger season.

by Amorcecille Almagro

EL FASHER – Fatima Abdallah Khaitir, 35, is among the poorest of the poor in the troubled Darfur region. She and her family have been living in the Abu Shouk Camp in El Fasher since 2004, when they fled their home because of fighting. Her husband is dead.

“As we are jobless here, we have no money and can’t afford to buy anything,” she says, describing a situation common to thousands of families here.

She’s among hundreds of women queueing outside the camp’s distribution centre to collect their monthly food ration. Those, like her, with children under five years of age will to get additional bags containing nutritious blended food of corn soya, dried skim milk and sugar, and a tin of vegetable oil.

Risk of malnutrition

“In North Darfur, we have seen thousands of children becoming malnourished during the hunger season. One in five is malnourished in this area,” says WFP Head of North Darfur Area Office Laurent Bukera.

WFP Staff member preparing a ration bag and wearing a surgical mask “This prompted us to launch special programme last year and to feed 172,000 children under the age of five.  For this year, we will feed 245,000 of them, of which 11,000 live here in Abu Shouk Camp. We can’t let anyone of them slip through the cracks again.”

To launch the programme, WFP needed to invest in five blending machines that are now installed at the El Fasher warehouse where they produce an average output of 66 metric tons of blended foods daily.  The agency also trained staff on blending, packaging and food handling to ensure that hygienic standards and guidelines are strictly followed.

Training for mothers

From the warehouse in El Fasher, the bags of blended foods are dispatched to several distribution centres across North Darfur where WFP’s NGO partners distribute them.

At Abu Shouk Camp, Sudan Red Crescent Society is in charge and, among other things, helps to train mothers on how to store and prepare the blended foods. In other areas, the German Agro Action and the African Humanitarian Action handle food distribution.

For four months, Fatima and hundreds of other women with keep coming to the distribution centres for their children’s bags of blended foods and tins of vegetable oil. They know that this is is one of the ways their children will be able to cope during the hunger season.