Nutrition assessment
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Republic of the Sudan

Situated in the north-eastern part of Africa, Sudan has a climate ranging from very arid in the northern parts to equatorial in its most southern parts. The central part is occupied by savannah. The population of the country is approximately 33 million, living in an area of 2.5 million km2. Although urbanization rate is high, the country is still predominantly rural.

More than 90% of the population suffer from poverty and food insecurity. After two decades of civil war, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in early 2005 between the government and the Sudanese Population Liberation Movement, if it is consolidated, could open a new era of stability. Increased revenue from oil exports could boost the economy and have a positive impact on the food security and nutrition situation.

Sudan is both a least developed and low-income food-deficit country. Conflict in the south and western parts of the country compounded by climatic problems such as drought and floods have caused severe food deficits, loss of livelihoods and major population displacements. Moreover, seasonal food shortage often evolves into chronic food insecurity. At the beginning of 2004, WFP and FAO estimated that 3.6 million inhabitants were in need of food assistance, with internally displaced people, refugees and returnees particularly exposed to food insecurity, health problems and insecurity.

Malaria and diarrhea lead the list of endemic diseases along with pneumonia and tuberculosis. Guinea worm infestation is a major health problem across the southern part of the country, where 70% of world cases have been reported. Prevalence of HIV/AIDS is increasing. Populations affected by civil strife are deprived of access to health services and are consequently more vulnerable to diseases and malnutrition.

According to national food balance statistics, the food supply, essentially based on cereals, meets population energy requirements. Vegetable foods are complemented with a substantial supply of milk. Nevertheless, national statistics mask large inequalities in access to food in the country. The prevalence of undernourishment is high. Data on actual food consumption are not available. 

Among children under 5 years of age, the prevalence of malnutrition is very high. Based on WHO epidemiologic criteria, the prevalence of stunting and wasting are classified as very high.

Although recent survey data are lacking, there is clear evidence that micronutrient deficiencies are a major public health problem. Prevalence of vitamin A deficiency is high, as observed in 1995 among preschool children. Areas most affected are Southern Darfur and Gezira. Some supplementation campaigns have been conducted but coverage of the population is still low. Prevalence of iodine deficiency is high, as observed among school-age children in 1997. States most at risk were the Upper Nile Zone, Kordofan Zone and Northern Zone. A salt iodization programme has been started but coverage is still very low. Iron deficiency anemia is also highly prevalent among children under 5 years and among women of reproductive age.

Important note : The data presented in this profile pertain to the whole country as regards basic indicators (part I) and food supply data, but most survey data are relevant to northern Sudan only, unless otherwise noted, and sometimes include data from southern cities aggregated as a cluster.

For specific information on southern Sudan, refer to the following document: New Sudan Centre for Statistics and Evaluation in Association with UNICEF. 2004.Towards a baseline: best estimates of social indicators for Southern Sudan. NSCSE Series Paper 1/2004