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Sudanese RefugeesMany refugees in Sudan fled on foot to Egypt to escape violent and impoverished conditions in Sudan. About 3.8 million Sudanese refugees currently live in neighboring Egypt, which is a popular destination for Sudanese refugees because the country is accessible on foot and the refugees are still able to receive help from relatives. Egypt is a close destination and for some, it is a stopping point before they attempt to flee to Europe, which is an even more dangerous route. Although they may flee to Egypt, however, many face adversities of discrimination and poverty once there.

Sudanese Refugees

Many Sudanese flee their home country to other regions of Africa due to political conflict and economic turmoil. Refugees in Sudan escape their country on foot to neighboring countries. When the first civil war started about 60 years ago in southern Sudan, Sudanese refugees began to flee to Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Many individuals have fled for different reasons; some flee to obtain better rights, but in particular, many flee to escape religious persecutions. One Sudanese man was targeted due to his Christian faith and the police told him to renounce his faith. The Muslim faith is prominent and individuals who practice the Christian faith have suffered persecution. Since he continued to believe in his religion, the man went to jail where he faced beatings and torture. After spending weeks in jail, the Sudanese man fled to Cairo, Egypt.

Sudanese Refugees Face Discrimination in Egypt

Many refugees in Sudan flee to Egypt resulting in a burden on resources. Overall, Egypt hosts millions of refugees who flee their country’s terrible conditions, only to face racism in Egypt. Some Egyptians will call Sudanese refugees slaves and other ethnic slurs. Some have faced harassment that brings up traumatic memories and flashbacks of violent conditions they experienced in Sudan, including torture and rape. Sudanese children are sometimes bullied in school. Egyptians and even refugees from other countries exhibit this behavior.

Some individuals in Egypt recognize there is a problem and acknowledge that Sudanese refugees are negatively treated. The president of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi calls for his citizens to take action and to not mistreat Sudanese refugees. In 2018, an Egyptian court sentenced a man to seven years in prison for harassing, beating and killing a South Sudanese teacher who worked with refugees in Cairo.

Sudanese Refugees Face Poverty in Egypt

More than 5 million refugees in Sudan left their country to escape poverty but have subsequently faced financial hardships in Egypt. Sudanese refugees in Egypt are provided with 1,500 Egyptian pounds (LE) for every child from the United Nations through the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), with no additional assistance from the state. Thus, it is difficult for the refugees to pay for schools and other expenses. At the same time, it is difficult for a Sudanese refugee to find work in Egypt, even for those with higher education, since the residence permit does not allow work. Many who do find jobs work by cleaning houses and shops.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many refugees in Sudan have faced an increased level of previous hardships. A fifth of foreigners were vulnerable and lost their jobs from the COVID-19 lockdowns in Egypt. In addition, many Egyptians have lost their jobs and in return have been forced to let go of migrant workers from Africa and Asia.

A Sudanese charity has financially helped more than 500 struggling families whose breadwinners have lost their jobs. Eviction has been a major problem for Sudanese refugees in Egypt, some of whom are attempting to return home.

Many Sudanese refugees escape their home country, only to face similar problems. Impoverished conditions continue to follow them within Egypt, although many strive to work harder in the new country. Organizations within Egypt need to help to eliminate discrimination against Sudanese refugees to alleviate their added struggles.

Ann Ciancia
Photo: Flickr

 COVID-19 in Sudan
Sudan, a country in northeastern Africa, has weathered a civil war that resulted in the creation of South Sudan, a coup d’état and food shortages, all within the last decade. The results of these events include a stunted healthcare system and an influx of refugees, which has affected the nation’s response to the coronavirus. With the number of cases reaching tens of thousands, Sudan’s leaders must find a way to keep citizens and refugees safe from the virus. Here are six facts about COVID-19 in Sudan.

6 Facts About COVID-19 in Sudan

  1. As of August 2020, the number of cases in Sudan is continuing to rise. The total number of cases is over 13,000, with 833 deaths. Most of the cases are in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. Since March, the virus has spread to all 18 regions of the country. This is alarming because rural areas do not have the same access to healthcare as the cities.
  2. Sudan’s healthcare system was fragile before COVID-19 entered its borders. Before 2020, an estimated 9.3 million out of Sudan’s 41.8 million people lacked basic healthcare and were in need of humanitarian assistance. With the coronavirus pandemic in full force, community resources and previously accessible services are limited. For migrants and displaced communities, losing what little healthcare they did have puts them at greater risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
  3. The government has restricted movement within the country. Since healthcare infrastructure is still being built, the government is taking containment measures into its own hands. While lockdown restrictions have eased in Khartoum, a curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. is still in effect for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, though a handful of internal borders reopened and are resuming bus transportation, wearing face masks and social distancing are still required. As of August 2020, Port Sudan International Airport remains closed for entering and exiting the country; however, Khartoum’s airport is open for repatriation flights of Sudanese citizens stranded abroad because of the virus.
  4. At the same time as the pandemic, Sudan is experiencing heavy flooding, the worst in a century. As of September 2020, 125,000 refugees and displaced persons are suffering from these floods. Most of the flooding is in regions of East Sudan, Darfur, White Nile and Khartoum. As a result, makeshift shelters, latrines and buildings were destroyed, heightening the risk of disease in general, let alone the risk of COVID-19 in Sudan. Without access to latrines and clean water, many refugees in these communities are unable to wash their hands regularly, an essential COVID-19 prevention measure. Additionally, since the roads are too muddy for transportation to get through, these communities are not receiving the much-needed aid as quickly as they should.
  5. Luckily, global aid organizations are responding to this call for help. Working with the Sudanese government, the UNHCR is providing emergency aid to the refugees and displaced communities across the country. They predict the results of this flooding will be long term and have successfully appealed for support in this endeavor.
  6. Turkey is also assisting in Sudan’s battle against the virus. The organization Turkish Red Crescent’s donation has 1,236 items, including ventilators, masks and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. Irfan Neziroglu, Turkey’s ambassador to Sudan, welcomed the donations when they arrived by way of an airplane in Khartoum.

Sudan was already enduring the aftermath of a war, political unrest and food shortages before the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of that, unprecedented flooding destroyed the lives of over 100,000 refugees and displaced Sudanese. However, this has not stopped the nation’s efforts to contain the virus to the best of its ability. With help from humanitarian organizations, COVID-19 in Sudan will hopefully decline.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Flickr

Ethiopia's Hydroelectric Expansion
Ethiopia is a young, developing country that is currently investing in hydroelectricity to meet the energy demands of a growing population. Currently, only 44% of Ethiopians have access to electricity. As the population continues to grow within the country, citizens’ access to electricity will be a cause for great concern. Ethiopia’s hydroelectric expansion is addressing the energy crisis and powering the country’s economic growth, at the same time.

Naturally Sourced

Ethiopia is well situated to harness the natural, kinetic energy of water because the Nile River runs through the northern part of the country. However, hydroelectricity does require the construction of costly dams. In this same vein, Ethiopia recently built one costing $1.8 billion. While expensive, once built, these dams provide an abundance of energy for many generations. Currently, Ethiopia’s hydroelectric expansion has achieved a 3,813-MW capacity for a population of roughly 108 million people.

As the Blue Nile begins in Ethiopia, the country does not have to worry about other nations damming the river upstream and thus, (hypothetically) cutting off its supply of water. Ethiopia’s geographic advantage thereby increases its energy autonomy. Additionally, hydroelectric energy is renewable and reliable because it is not dependent on variable weather conditions as is the case with other renewable, energy resources.

Growing Demand

Ethiopia’s population is growing at a staggering rate of 2.56% per year. Notably, less than 50% of the population has access to hydroelectricity. To help people escape poverty in the modern age, they must have access to an electrical grid. Access to electricity does not guarantee prosperity, but the lack of electricity almost ensures poverty.

Ethiopia is one of the leading African nations in hydroelectric energy and is continuing to invest in more dams. In 2016, Ethiopia embarked on a joint venture with China and built one of the largest roller-compacted dams in the world. Although dams are vulnerable to droughts — they provide clean, renewable energy that is not dependent on highly variable weather patterns, such as wind and sunlight. Ethiopia cannot solely depend on hydroelectricity and instead, must continue to increase its energy supply to meet an ever-growing demand. Nearly 40% of Ethiopia’s population is younger than 14-years-old. As this population matures, it will further increase the demand for energy within the country. The booming population will continue to slip into poverty if it does not invest in a hydroelectric infrastructure that can support such a population growth rate.

Positive Growth

Hydroelectricity provides abundant energy. Yet, it requires an electrical grid to transport that energy across the country and perhaps equally as important, from an economic standpoint — into neighboring countries. Not only has Ethiopia built more hydroelectric dams, but it has also expanded its entire energy infrastructure. Ethiopia strives to become an energy hub for Africa as it exports electricity to Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya. Although 29.6% of Ethiopia’s population lives below the poverty line, there is a great reason to hope that this number will decrease as the economy further develops. Ethiopia currently has the 13th highest industrial growth rate at 10.5%, annually. The economy is rapidly growing, largely supported by Ethiopia’s hydroelectric expansion.

Noah Kleinert
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Facts About Girls' Education in Sudan
Facts about girls’ education in Sudan are startling as females are at a clear disadvantage. Girls in Sudan are more likely to be illiterate than their regional counterparts, which is concerning as the region around the nation is plagued with female educational suppression.

Facts About Girls’ Education in Sudan

  1. According to UNICEF, 49 percent of girls are missing out on primary education. As of 2017, a total of three million children have been left out of Sudan’s education system, half of them being girls.
  2. In general, Sudan has unegalitarian views towards women. Sudan’s legal system is a strict form of Sharia Law, which limits the rights of women in many respects. The nature of such laws has seeped into Sudanese culture, thus affecting the quality and quantity of girls education for the worse. These laws include punishment for not wearing religious garb in public and institutionalized discrimination against women. When the mantra of the government and its laws is anti-women, the educational system will most likely be anti-women as well.
  3. The laws in Sudan regarding education do not guarantee safety against discrimination. Educators can then easily implement their views on who they allow to enroll in schools. Such views are the norm in Sudan, as is the opinion that women should aspire to be a housewife for their ultimate goal. Sudanese culture follows a strict interpretation of Islam and is often a culture that allows female genital mutilation, honor killings and other violations against women. Such an environment would be hard pressed not to extend such discrimination to education.
  4. In Sudan, the enrollment rate for girls in primary school is lower than that of boys, and there is also a significant gap in literacy between boys and girls.
  5. The quality of  teachers is very low in Sudan in comparison to the rest of the world; there may be up to 110,000 unqualified teachers teaching in Sudan, as 48 percent of teachers in Sudan have only completed primary education. On average, children in Sudan experience either no education (as Sudan has one of the highest out-of-school-children rates in the world) or very poor education from unqualified teachers.
  6. A severe lack of female teachers in Sudanese schools often creates a learning environment much more hostile to girls, which can then deter girls enrolling in school. Only 12 percent of South Sudan’s instructors are female, and the data of female education rates across generations show less improvement over time.
  7. The average household in Sudan contains 5.7 people; contrastingly, an United States household holds an average of 2.58 people. The cost of education in Sudan is not direct tuition, but rather similar to western universities and religious schools charge aside from tuition: textbooks, uniforms, exam fees, and even teacher salaries. This is very costly for many families, especially as poverty is extremely high in Sudan — 44.8  percent of the population live below the poverty line, and there is a 17 percent unemployment rate.
  8. The large number of families who struggle with such costs generally have two options: (1) do not send their children to school (which is a partial explanation for why the educational enrollment rate in Sudan is very low) or (2) choose their favorite children to attend school. For the latter option, these favorites are almost unanimously boys which hurts girls educational opportunities.
  9. Given the fact that normal schooling in Sudan is explicitly anti-women, it’s very hard for girls in Sudan to receive an education, and the shortage of out-of-school alternatives really leaves Sudan’s girls in a difficult place.
  10. Fortunately, Sudan is not alone. The Global Partnership for Education Fund heavily funds the Sudanese government so as “to improve the learning environment in targeted areas; to increase the availability of textbooks; and to strengthen education planning and management mechanisms in the Sudan.” In fact, $76 million has gone into a project known as the Basic Education Recovery Project which significantly helps girls education in Sudan.

Steps to Empowerment

These facts about girls’ education in Sudan leave the international community with a daunting task — making change a reality in Sudan. Thankfully, such outcomes are occurring, but help is always needed and desired. Donating to organizations such as The Borgen Project that work to provide international aid is one of the best ways to help make change a reality.

– Daniel Lehewych
Photo: Flickr

Save the Children in SudanFollowing decades of non-stop armed conflict, Sudan has a horrible human rights record and ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Violent clashes and subsequent displacement of citizens have particularly hurt the country’s most vulnerable population: children. Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organization for children and is currently engaged in 120 countries, including Sudan. Save the Children has worked to improve the welfare of Sudanese children since 1983.

Sudan has been plagued by a string of violent conflicts. In 2005, the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005) concluded with the signage of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Subsequently, in 2011 residents of South Sudan overwhelmingly voted to secede from Sudan. The secession of South Sudan resulted in a mass migration as citizens of Sudan relocated to South Sudan and vice-versa.

This mass displacement separated tens of thousands of children from their families. To address this crisis, Save the Children has implemented a family tracing and reunification (FTR) program. FTR is the first initiative that Save the Children launches in conflict zones.

Save the Children partnered with UNICEF and community-based networks to introduce FTR following the creation of the Republic of South Sudan in 2011. The program identifies and registers unaccompanied children, then works to reunite them with their families. Unfortunately, the longer a child remains separated from caregivers, the greater the risk that the child will become a victim of violence and exploitation.

Last month, Save the Children and UNICEF aided 399 unaccompanied Sudanese children. Additionally, the partners have just reunited their 5,000th child with his mother. In total, 16,055 separated children have been traced and documented by all the family reunification organizations in Sudan.

Save the Children in Sudan further supports children by supporting community-based child protection networks. The organization leverages existing community structures to identify and respond to child protection issues. Through these networks, Save the Children aims to raise awareness and spread information to prevent child matriculation into armed forces, to reduce the number of children separated from caregivers and to educate the community about existing resources that combat child abuse.

Additionally, the organization has created child-friendly spaces that help children recover from trauma and re-enter their local communities. Save the Children establishes child-friendly spaces in all conflict zones where it operates. The nonprofit coordinates these spaces with existing local services to expand the care options available.

Save the Children combats major social problems through public information campaigns delivered at schools, child-friendly spaces and community centers. In Sudan, the organization disseminates information about two major safety threats: the recruitment of children by armed forces and the continued presence of landmines and unexplained ordinances. Additionally, Save the Children addresses the root cause of child enrollment into armies by working to improve the economic circumstances of vulnerable children.

Save the Children believes that the existing legislative framework for the protection of Sudanese children is inadequate. Physical discipline is still widely accepted in schools and homes. Therefore, Save the Children helps national civil rights groups campaign for new protective policies and expansion of government bodies that combat physical punishment.

In 2013, Save the Children’s child protection program in Sudan directly impacted 969,000 people, including 551,974 children, and indirectly impacted 5,025670 people, including 3,318,931 children. Its efforts are going a long way to alleviate the issues caused by the ongoing instability in Sudan.

Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in SudanSince Sudan’s independence in 1956, the country has been wracked with volatile conflict. The unyielding violence, an unforgiving climate and a tumultuous government controlled by military personnel are significant causes of poverty in Sudan.

Although Sudan’s GDP per capita rose to $2,140 in 2016, unequal distribution of wealth and resources has exacerbated socioeconomic inequality through different regions of the country. Poverty levels differ depending on location, with a smaller percentage of severely impoverished citizens in metropolitan Khartoum than rural North Darfur. Altogether, 46.5 percent of the population of Sudan lived below the poverty line in 2009.

The harsh climate and scarce natural resources create adverse conditions for farmers. Low levels of rainfall particularly affect subsistence farmers living in remote areas outside of irrigation zones. Short growing seasons and lack of access to new technology contributes to low agricultural productivity. These factors seriously impact poor farmers in isolated communities and further perpetuate the inequality present between urban and rural citizens.

Poor allocation of government resources has worsened existing inequality. Military expenditures and government spending on the development of populous towns in the Nile valley greatly exceeds spending on outlying farming communities. This culture of inequality and the extreme poverty faced by the isolated poor led to civil conflicts that culminated in the cession of the southern states and the formation of the Republic of South Sudan in July 2011.

Explosive violence has long been among the causes of poverty in Sudan. The recent civil war and the resulting divide of the country only deepened the country’s resource deficit. The secession of the oil-rich southern states resulted in a loss of over half of Sudan’s government revenues and more than 95 percent of its exports.

Furthermore, civil war in South Sudan has led to an influx of refugees to Sudan. As of March 2017, approximately 332,885 people have fled to Sudan. This population explosion further strains Sudan’s small resource pool.

However, Sudan’s parliament approved the Five-Year Program of Economic Reforms in December 2014. This plan emphasizes further development of agriculture and livestock to combat low productivity and poor crop yields, leading causes of poverty in Sudan. The new economic plan could provide a solution to the loss of South Sudan’s resources and could lead to an increase in economic stability.

Furthermore, the U.S. eased sanctions on Sudan in 2017. These sanctions were implemented in 1997 and expanded in 2006. The trade and financial sanctions were imposed as a response to human rights violations carried out by the Sudanese government. The Obama administration temporarily lifted some of the economic sanctions as a response to improved conditions in Sudan. The Sudanese government now allows humanitarian aid to reach inhabitants of conflict areas and has orchestrated a ceasefire with the rebel army, the People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO).

This temporary reprieve from sanctions allows trade between Sudan and the U.S., creating some small economic stimulus in Sudan. The policy is under six-month review and pending approval to become permanent. The removal of these sanctions would finally offer an opportunity for some economic growth in a country long plagued by explosive violence and poor governance.

Katherine Parks

In the midst of the Sahara Desert, Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world. South Sudan became the world’s newest economy in July 2011 after a referendum of self-determination which took place in January 2011. Poverty in South Sudan is more widespread as this area is affected by drought, conflict and famine. According to the Human Development Index, Sudan ranks 147 out of 177 countries. Why is Sudan poor?

Almost half of the population lives in poverty in Sudan. As of 2009, 46.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Nine out of 10 people live on less than a dollar per day. About 40 percent of the population lacks access to safe drinking water. Sudan has the largest number of internally displaced people in the world. More than half a million breastfeeding mothers and children are in need of supplementary food.

According to the Human Development Index of 2000, 26.6 percent of the population will likely not live past the age of 40. Serious illnesses among children, caused by malnutrition and dehydration, cannot be treated because of limited medical supplies, facilities and ill-equipped services. As a result, half of Sudan’s children are not in school.

Hard climate conditions and lack of natural resources contribute to poverty in Sudan. The internal conflict and political instability have intensified the poor conditions. The civil unrest has cost the lives of about 1.5 million people.

Why is Sudan poor? Subsistence agriculture is the main source of livelihood, which includes crop cultivation, herding and fishing. However, food is scarce, increasing poverty in Sudan. The limited size of landholdings, low productivity rates and inability to increase incomes prevent farmers from food production. Poor rainfall and lack of domestic water supplies are other hindrances for crop cultivation. To avoid these conditions, people have fled from Sudan to the Nile river.

Isolation is one of the key factors of poverty in Sudan. People settling away from the main thoroughfares have no access to services and markets, making them vulnerable. Government corruption creates imbalances in the distribution of resources; a large part of the economy is spent on military security apparatus. This fiscal policy is another important consideration in answering the question ‘why is Sudan poor?’

To fight poverty in Sudan, the World Bank agreed to provide $100 million in order to establish development projects in Sudan until 2019. Sudan’s state minister predicted that the economy of Sudan would grow by only 0.2 percent per year.

Aishwarya Bansal

Photo: Flickr


Famine has been officially declared as people are dying from hunger in Sudan. The United Nations has said the situation is “desperate” in the Southern state.

Nearly 100,000 people are facing famine so serious that they are at risk of dying in the Southern Unity State of the country. One million people are currently on the border of famine and almost five million are in need of some type of humanitarian aid.

On February 22, 2017, the United Nations spoke out about the rising crisis of hunger in Sudan is leading to rising deaths. Five million South Sudanese do not have an adequate amount of food and that number is expected to rise. Over one million of those are severely malnourished children who are at immediate risk of dying.

South Sudan is a country of around 12 million people in Northern Africa. Around 80 percent of the country’s population lives in rural areas, with more than 30 percent of the children under the age of five being undernourished. The average life expectancy is 55.7 years.

South Sudan became an independent nation from the Republic of Sudan in 2011 but has faced a civil war since 2013 that continues to this day. Many aid workers in the country have faced violence because of the ongoing war, with some even having been forced to leave the country.

The United Nations and its humanitarian partner organizations want to assist nearly six million people in 2017 in South Sudan, as well as other countries struggling with the same crises. The situation is expected to get worse in the coming months, due to the height of the lean season, if something is not done immediately. Emphasis has been placed on the fact that these types of issues are stemming from disputes, therefore they are preventable.

Some organizations working to provide aid for hunger in Sudan are UNICEF (The United Nations International Children’s Fund), FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), Action Against Hunger, and WFP (The World Food Programme). These organizations work to provide a variety of types of support to those who are affected. UNICEF, focusing specifically on children, is working to provide treatment for children facing extreme malnutrition. FAO is working to make food more secure and to increase incomes. Action Against Hunger is working to provide emergency care and treatment. WFP is working to provide nutritious school meals, general nutritional support and provides money transfers for displaced people in need of food.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

Fight for Clean Water in Sudan
Getting safe and clean water in Sudan continues to be an ongoing struggle that the Sudanese people have endured for decades. Plagued by war, poverty and disease, the ongoing water stress in Sudan has created a strain on political and economic situations and taken a toll on infrastructure and agricultural systems.

Given that the livelihood of Sudan is reliant on the agricultural industry, which requires 97 percent of the country’s water usage, the lack of rainfall and desertification has contributed to a prevalent impoverished state. Family displacement is a continuous problem as families seek out potentially prosperous land elsewhere.

To put into perspective, the U.S. domestic water use “accounts for 13 percent of total supply,” whereas availability for the domestic use of clean water in Sudan is two percent. Adding to this insufficient supply of water, issues such as a rapidly increasing population, drought and the unregulated disbursement of large water sources, such as the Nile River Basin, are being ignored.

While economic and political strife remains, family life is also at stake. Each day a mother or child must walk far distances in order to gather the necessary amount of water needed to cook and clean. Oftentimes, an individual can travel up to four hours to locate a safe water source, while risking their safety due to prevalent gender violence. Such demands cause children to forego education in order to help contribute to family needs. Every day an individual is faced with the possibility of running out of the clean water gathered that day and deciding whether or not to risk their health by drinking from a risky water source.

Lastly, the most important consideration in the face of Sudan’s water crisis is protecting and sustaining the health of the population. Misuse of water sources, pollution and fecal contamination are key contributors to the waterborne diseases that spread throughout Sudan. In 2004, 3,753 cases of Hepatitis E were contracted within four months and in 2006, 476 deaths in just five months occurred as a result of contaminated water. Other common waterborne diseases include Guinea Worm Disease from which three out of five cases originate in Sudan.

Fortunately, many organizations and nonprofits have aided in the redevelopment of the water quality in Sudan. Water is Basic was formed in 2006 following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which set out to end the civil war in Sudan. Since 2008, the organization has installed and restored over 500 clean water wells and “to date, [has] brought clean water to 10 percent of the total population of South Sudan.” Their Carry the Jerry annual race has brought awareness to the hardships Sudanese people endure as participants complete the race by carrying the Jerry cans used to transport fresh water to and from non-local sources.

Similarly, a 2012 pledge from Japan, promising $50 million in infrastructural aid is projected to be completed in 2017. This will provide clean and convenient water access to 400,000 residents of Juba, Sudan. Other ongoing effort initiatives exist from numerous organizations such as Water For South Sudan, the Water Project and Africa Heartwood Project.

The current global efforts to provide clean water in Sudan has introduced a new hope for the Sudanese by empowering them to establish community and leadership with the ultimate hope that Sudan will one day be a self-sustaining country. With the help of various organizations, jobs have been established for Sudanese individuals providing them with income to send their children to school, preserve their households, and to “dream of a future.”

Amy Williams

Photo: Flickr

Meningitis Vaccine
Meningitis is an infection, either viral or bacterial, that occurs around the brain and spinal cord. The bacterial form of this disease can have very severe consequences. According to PATH, 10% of victims die even with antibiotic treatment — 80% without any treatment — and survivors can still suffer from hearing loss or paralysis. Thankfully, a new meningitis vaccine offers hope despite these daunting statistics.

Sudan is one of 26 countries in Africa located in the “meningitis belt,” an area with a total population of about 450 million that has been deeply affected by meningitis over the past century. Epidemics arose about once every eight to 12 years according to PATH, and in 1996 25,000 people were killed in the largest meningitis epidemic.

Addressing meningitis in Africa is difficult because although meningitis A is one of the main causes of epidemics in Africa, most industrialized countries have meningitis C posing the largest problem. As a result, vaccine manufacturers focus on designing vaccines for industrialized countries to net more profit, and unfortunately, African countries then fail to receive the types of vaccines they need to combat meningitis A.

MVP to the Rescue

The creation of the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP) via a collaboration between the WHO and PATH in 2001 did much to help the situation. MVP was able to create a meningitis A vaccine, trademarked as MenAfriVac, that could also be cheaply administered for less than 50 cents for one dose.

MVP then introduced the vaccine in mass vaccination campaigns, and as a result, 235 million people gained immunity. Amazingly, only 80 cases of meningitis A were recorded in 2015 — a huge improvement compared to the 250,000 reported cases from the 1996 epidemic.

Continuing the Success

So why then is Sudan incorporating the vaccine into its routine immunization program important if so much progress has been made in reducing meningitis outbreaks? Despite the success of the current round of immunizations, if the vaccines are not continually administered in the future, epidemics could begin again in as early as 15 years.

The fact that the meningitis A vaccine is now part of Sudan’s routine immunization program means that at birth children will automatically receive the vaccine. As long as this program remains in effect, Sudan will likely not have to worry about meningitis. This year, 720,000 Sudanese children less than one year of age are expected to receive the vaccine.

Additionally, another vaccination campaign targeting children between one and five years old will go into effect this September. These children might have missed out on the Sudanese vaccination campaign that took place in 2012 and 2013, so the additional vaccinations provide another precaution against an outbreak.

Other countries should follow Sudan in adopting the meningitis vaccine into routine immunization programs. That way, these countries will be able to suppress meningitis on their own even without vaccination campaigns and help hundreds to combat the deadly infection.

Edmond Kim

Photo: Flickr