SIERRA LEONE: Catastrophic Situation in Makeni, [19990729]

SIERRA LEONE: Catastrophic Situation in Makeni, [19990729]

SIERRA LEONE: Catastrophic situation in Makeni, NGO says

ABIDJAN, 29 July 1999 (IRIN) - The humanitarian situation in Makeni district, northern Sierra Leone, is "catastrophic", according to Action Contre la Faim (ACF), which estimates that over 30 percent of children under the age of five surveyed in Makeni town were malnourished.

Of the 95 children under five screened in the town by a team of humanitarian workers, 17 were "moderately malnourished" and 17 "severely malnourished."

The mission, which visited the area on 23-26 July, also made nutritional surveys in four villages surrounding Makeni. It found that the percentage of malnourished children in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the district was even higher.

In Magbenteh camp on the outskirts of Makeni, which has some 2,000 IDPs, 43 of the 97 children surveyed were "severely malnourished."

ACF's Head of Mission in Freetown, Marc Gordon, who was part of the Makeni mission, told IRIN on Thursday that the fact that adults were suffering from malnutrition, which was unusual, was indicative of the gravity of the situation.

Another reason why ACF has characterised the situation as catastrophic, he said, was that 103 of the 153 of the severely-malnourished cases (67 percent) had oedema.

"Oedema indicates the latter stages of malnutrition manifested by swelling of the feet, which gradually spreads to the rest of the body," Gordon said. "It is very difficult to treat and the mortality rate is far higher than for other types of malnutrition." He said another indicator of a bad situation was if more than 10 percent of a sample screened had malnutrition.

ACF, in a news release issued on Wednesday, attributed the severity of the humanitarian situation to the fact that Makeni had been cut off from commercial and relief supplies since December. Moreover, Gordon said, an ACF food-security assessment in the Makeni area revealed that 75 percent of farmers had been unable to plant this year because seeds were short and the market poorly stocked.

Gordon told IRIN that ACF intended to set up two therapeutic feeding centres for the most severe cases and four supplementary feeding centres to treat the malnourished in Makeni.

"The first feeding centre will open this weekend," he said. "We will move therapeutic milk to Makeni tomorrow."

However, a humanitarian source in Freetown told IRIN that damage to a bridge to the east of Rogberi junction, about 120 km from Freetown, was now a "big obstacle to the large-scale delivery of relief assistance to Makeni."


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Item: irin-english-1317

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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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