The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus says millions of people in Sudan can’t access the healthcare they need as two months of war has devastated the limited healthcare facilities in one of the world’s poorest nations.
War broke out in Sudan on April 15th as the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) under General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti) engaged each other in battle in the search for political control.
It’s left at least 500 people dead and over 4,000 injured and forced millions to flee. One of its most devastating consequences has been on the country’s healthcare system.
“…two months of violence have severely impacted the delivery of health services, leaving 11 million people in need of health assistance,” says WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus.
Speaking June 21st at a virtual press conference on global health issues in which Timescape Magazine took part, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus explained that “about two thirds of health facilities in affected areas are out of service. Repeated attacks on health facilities, medical warehouses, ambulances, and health workers are preventing patients and health workers from reaching hospitals.” He said WHO has verified 46 attacks on health care since the start of the fighting.
“Critical services have stopped, including for trauma and emergencies, mothers and children, survivors of gender-based violence, and malnutrition and non-communicable diseases.”
On April 25th, Sudan’s doctors’ syndicate said that services had ceased functioning in more than 70 per cent of hospitals in areas hit by the clashes in a number of Sudanese states.
“In total, 13 of the hospitals were bombed, while 19 others forcibly evacuated,” the statement said.
“We are in a state of total collapse,” said Atiya Abdullah Atiya, a key member of the syndicate, in a phone call to SciDev.Net. “Our drug stocks are depleted, health institutions have been destroyed, and our medical teams have been killed in battle.”
The attack on healthcare means it’s harder to control the ongoing epidemics of measles, malaria and dengue, and it’s increased the risk of epidemics especially given the upcoming rainy season, limited access to safe water, population displacement, and limited capacity to detect outbreaks early.
The WHO says it requires 145 million U.S. dollars in additional funding “to meet increasing health needs of people affected by violence in Sudan, and those who have fled to the neighboring Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan,” Ghebreyesus said.
“I am deeply concerned for the health and wellbeing of the people of Sudan, and WHO is exploring all avenues for providing the support they need,” the WHO boss said, and called for international solidarity “to enable WHO and our partners to continue providing lifesaving interventions over the next six months.”
An Unfolding Humanitarian Crisis
The war in Sudan has forced nearly 2 million people to flee their homes, with more than 24 million requiring humanitarian assistance, according to Paul Emes, country representative for the Catholic Relief Services in Sudan.
His colleague in Chad told Timescape Magazine that “more than 150,000 new refugees, among which 92% are women and children, fleeing the conflict in Sudan had been registered in Chad within seven weeks.
“Right now, the immediate needs for Sudanese refugees in Chad are food, screening and treatment for malnourished children, boreholes for water, latrines, basic healthcare, and protection of vulnerable groups including unaccompanied children, pregnant women, and elders,” he said.