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Malnutrition levels in south "alarmingly high" - NGO

Malnutrition levels in southern Sudan are alarmingly high and have been above the emergency threshold for the past three years, a report released by the NGO, Action Against Hunger (AAH), said. "The nutritional situation in southern Sudan is dire by any standards," Roger Persichino, AAH desk officer, said in a press release on Friday. "Rates show a prevalence of malnutrition comparable to what we have in Niger or in Darfur. But it seems nobody cares or, maybe worse, that everybody has gotten used to it," he added. The January-July 2005 report said the overall rate of global acute malnutrition was 20.7 percent, above the 15 percent emergency threshold and equalling the rates of malnutrition currently observed in hunger-stricken Niger in West Africa. In certain areas of Upper Nile and Bahr-el-Ghazal regions, it added, malnutrition rates had reached 39 percent and 64 percent, respectively. AAH said there seemed to be a general impression that southern Sudan was not suffering from a nutritional emergency, and most international aid coming into the region was slated for redevelopment of the war-scarred region rather than alleviating the nutritional crisis. "Southern Sudan is a place where people are used to absurdly high rates of malnutrition, and it's not acceptable," Persichino said. "We're looking at a place that is literally on the verge of famine every year." Until 9 January 2005, when the former rebels of the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army and the Sudanese government signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the south was embroiled in a 21-year civil war that killed some two million people and displaced another four million. Thousands of returning southerners have, however, faced serious problems as they go home to a region that lacks even the most basic human needs.
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