Sudan is rich in natural and human resources; however, it is poverty and conflict-stricken. Agriculture is an income provider for 70 percent of the populace. Due to a lack of resources and training availability, the health care sector of the country remains underfunded and understaffed. Here are ten facts about health care in Sudan.
10 Facts About Health Care in Sudan
- Approximately 14 percent of Sudanese do not have access to health care. This is largely due to the fact that Sudan has a critical shortage of health care workers. According to the World Health Organization, there are 23 qualified health care workers per 10,000 members of the population.
- There is a high level of child and maternal mortality in Sudan. South Sudan contains one of the highest child mortality rates on the planet. One-fifth of children do not live to five years old. South Sudan’s maternal mortality rate is also among the world’s highest. Around 2,054 women per 100,000 die during childbirth. In addition, only 23 percent of pregnant women receive antenatal care from a qualified health care provider. According to Buckeye Clinic, a 15-year-old girl is more likely to die in childbirth than finish school.
- Under 48 percent of the population in Sudan has access to safely treated drinking water. Around 6.4 percent of the country’s population uses sanitary methods of excretion disposal. This contributes to polluted drinking water sources across Sudan. Approximately 32 percent of Sudan’s population is drinking contaminated water from untreated water sources. This is a result of chemical and bacterial contamination from industrial, domestic and commercial waste that degrades the water quality. There are acts at the state and national levels to help prevent this washing and injection; however, these acts need activation. UNICEF is working with the Sudanese government to increase access to basic treated water supplies for the people of Sudan, with a focus on women and children.
- The major diseases of the country include malaria, diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, guinea worm disease and tuberculosis. Increased outbreaks in 2019 were, in part, a result of heavy rainfall during the rainy season. Consequently, this rainfall left behind stagnant pools which were breeding grounds for mosquitos, contributing to the spread of infection. Government authorities and their humanitarian partners worked to respond to outbreaks across the country. The Kassala and North Darfur Ministries of Health launched weekly response task force meetings and developed state-level plans to mitigate the outbreak.
- Sudan has widespread micronutrient deficiencies. This is partially due to insufficient levels of crop growth. Only 14 percent of 208 cultivable acres are being cultivated. Drought, pests and environmental degradation also contribute to widespread malnourishment. However, vitamin A deficiency decreased due to repeated vitamin A supplementation given during National Immunization Day campaigns.
- Many Sudanese women and girls lack adequate health care and resources. Women and girls living in the rebel-held areas of Southern Kordofan or the Nuba Mountains of Sudan have very limited or no access to contraception. Human Rights Watch found most of the women interviewed did not know what a condom was and was unfamiliar with other common contraceptive practices. This lack of education and the low availability of condoms are why there are high percentages of women testing positive for hepatitis B. Consequently, gonorrhea and syphilis are on the rise in Sudan.
- The National Expanded Program on Immunization in Sudan supports an increase in routine immunization coverage. In addition, the government’s financial investment to EPI and polio eradication program is 15 million USD. Challenges the program faces include poor service delivery and a lack of resources and skilled staff. As a result, only 17 percent of children under five are adequately immunized.
- Sudan spends 6.5 percent of its gross domestic product and 8.3 percent of government spending on health care. Before the 1990s, health care at public health care facilities was mostly free. However, the structural reforms of 1992 introduced user fees. Now, out-of-pocket expenses for patients hover in the 70 percent range.
- There are 75 degrees and diploma-granting health institutions in Sudan. About 28 of these institutions offer diplomas and 47 of these schools offer degrees. There are 14 private institutions, while the others belong to agencies such as the Federal Ministry of Health and other government agencies. In 2001, the Federal Ministers of Health and Higher Education signed a Sudan Declaration and Nursing and Allied Health Workers in 2001. The goal of the declaration was to improve nursing and other health care education. The Academy of Health Sciences was established in 2005 to help implement this goal.
- Fighting in Darfur, Bentu and South Sudan resulted in considerable damage to the socio-economic and physical infrastructure of Sudan. More than 35,000 people live in the Yusuf Batil refugee camp. UNICEF and its partners provide health care, water and sanitation services. The UN refugee agencies also provide mobile clinics to aid the people at the camp, but difficulties increase during the rainy season because people must move to avoid annual flooding. The heavy rain makes it more challenging to provide supplies, which are delivered by helicopter.
These ten facts about health care in Sudan illuminate some of the struggles the nation has faced. However, in response to these conditions, there are a number of NGOs working to transform the health care of Sudan. The International Medical Corps is focusing on training a new generation of South Sudanese health care workers to care for their own communities. With efforts by the International Medical Corps and other humanitarian organizations, health care in Sudan will hopefully improve.
– Robert Forsyth