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Doctors battle malnutrition in Sudan

From Christiane Amanpour
CNN Chief International Correspondent

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Those who fled the fighting in Sudan's Darfur region must now face the threat of disease.
SPECIAL REPORT
Crisis in Sudan
• Gallery: Humanitarian crisis
• Map: Sudan's Darfur region
• Behind the scenes: Amanpour
• Related sites: How to help
• An aid worker's diary
• Special: Crisis in Sudan
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Sudan

AL-GENEINA, Sudan (CNN) -- Dr. Jonathan Spector is at war with malnutrition -- Darfur's biggest killer.

Spector is midway through a stint for the aid group Médecins Sans Frontières in Al-Geneina, the capital of western Darfur.

He is a long way from his pediatric practice back in Boston.

"In a developed country this child would be in intensive care, he would be on monitors, oxygen a ventilator," Spector says as he examines an infant.

"He doesn't actually meet the malnutrition criteria for our camp because he's not severely malnourished. He's moderately malnourished."

Here Spector doesn't have simple diagnostic tools like blood tests, and every day he has to make tough choices about who to treat.

But these children are severe cases, and every effort counts.

Mothers are told to force formula into their skin-and-bone infants every three hours.

With malnutrition come other killer diseases: diarrhea, skin infections and septicemia.

These patients are also victims of the brutal wave of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by government-backed militias over the past 18 months.

"They chased us from our home seven months ago, they stole all our cattle and killed three people in our family," says Halimalayas as she watches over her malnourished daughter Zahra.

In another tent, Spector relishes a success. "She's so much better she looks marvelous," he says after examining a child.

But it's only a small success in a desperate bid to save about 2 million people in urgent need of food and medical aid.

There are not nearly enough humanitarian aid or aid workers reaching the region.

And 18 months after this catastrophe began, the world has coughed up less than half the funds the United Nations requested to save Darfur.


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