Forty-four percent of the refugee children under the age of 5 in South Sudan are suffering from growth retardation or stunting, according to a U.N. survey. The UNHCR, the U.N.'s top refugees body, said in a report released Monday that "6.2 percent or 3,391 out of the total of 54,172 refugee children under 5 years old were suffering from acute malnutrition."
"Both stunting and anemia can have long-term negative consequences for children and affect children's immune systems as well as intellectual capacity and mental development," said Johann Siffointe, the UNHCR representative in South Sudan, as reported by Anadolu Agency (AA).
Siffointe said the solution to the problem required "a holistic approach," which he said should include the provision of adequate healthcare and water and sanitation services, and food security.
The survey also revealed that 48 percent, or 26,000, of the refugee children in South Sudan were suffering from anemia.
The U.N. declared a famine in two districts in February, but said that the crisis had started to ease in June last year. "We are expecting to face the toughest year on record," U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Alain Noudehou told a press conference in the South Sudanese capital Juba, according to Reuters. Records for South Sudan began when it declared independence from Sudan in July, 2011.