Posts

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

Mycetoma Research
One of the top diseases in Sudan is mycetoma: a devastating illness caused by a fungal infection of the skin and bone. A causative organism, such as an infectious fungal spore, will enter the body through an open wound or abrasion and works its way through skin and tissue until it colonizes bone material. The disease can be treated with antifungal medication, but the currently available drug is only 30 percent effective and too expensive for the populations at risk.

The populations most likely to contract mycetoma are rural, isolated communities that fall within the “mycetoma belt,” including Venezuela, Chad, Ethiopia, India, Mauritania, Mexico, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. There is an especially long history of Mycetoma in Sudan beginning when the country produced the first report on the disease in the early 1700s, earning its reputation as the mycetoma homeland.

Generally, people in affected communities have limited access to healthcare and will contract mycetoma from walking without protective footwear. The mycetoma-causing fungus enters the body through a prick or scape on the foot. Over time, the infection will spread to the individual’s bone and they will lose the function of the affected limb.

Unable to travel long distances for medical attention, the individual is commonly forced to amputate. If they do not die from infection, many patients will suffer from additional postoperative complications, as their community healers don’t have the resources to perform safe and sanitary amputations. Mycetoma can be passed from person to person if contact is made with an infected area or surface harboring mycetoma-causing organisms.

The worst part about mycetoma is how little the world knows about its causes and symptoms. Mycetoma is so neglected that it just recently made the World Health Organization’s list of Neglected Diseases in May 2016, though cases date back more than 300 years.

While the disease is widespread, mycetoma research in Sudan is historically misrepresentative. In previous years, when the disease was not included in the WHO list of Neglected Diseases, mycetoma went unreported as doctors and healthcare workers were not actively seeking out cases.

Only two large-scale epidemiological studies for mycetoma research have ever been conducted to estimate prevalence throughout an entire country, in Mexico and Sudan. Both studies ended by 1985, rendering the results incredibly outdated.

Besides the two nation-wide studies, several single-center studies have attempted to perform a meta-analysis using specific cases from various countries. A 2014 study used cases from India, Mexico, Niger and Sudan to estimate the prevalence per country and found that prevalence ranked between 3.49 and <0.01 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

On paper, these numbers hardly represent the holistic effects mycetoma has on rural, isolated regions, whose infected inhabitants cannot reach universities or research centers. Consequently, mycetoma receives barely any funding from international organizations and medical programs.

While the disease may not be accurately represented through numbers or statistics, it has a palpable, multiplying effect, as infected individuals cannot work, attend school or perform manual labor. Thus, not only does one case affect multiple people, but the disease creates a disastrous cycle wherein a sick individual loses the ability to walk, cannot reach medical professionals and goes unreported.

An organization called Drugs for Neglected Diseases (DNDi) recognizes the severe lack of attention paid to mycetoma within the medical community. This past May, DNDi launched a clinical trial for the new antifungal drug Fosravuconazole. Starting in July, Fosravucinazle will be investigated in a randomized controlled experiment, alongside the current medicine, itraconazole.

DNDi has chosen to conduct the study in Sudan, at the Mycetoma Research Center at the national university is in Khartoum.

In addition to investigating new treatment, the study will contribute to the research center’s previous reports. Between 1991 and 2014, the research center reports 6,792 cases of mycetoma in Sudan. But, as stated before, the prevalence of mycetoma in isolated communities is likely much higher.

To put matters into perspective, the Sudanese state of Gezira yields over 80 percent of the total number of reported cases at the Mycetoma Research Center. However, a Gezira resident would need to travel 118 miles to get to Khartoum, making the journey financially and logistically difficult, since the majority of patients are of low socioeconomic status.

Out of all the cases, 76 percent of the patients were male, while 64 percent were under 30 years old. Additionally, 28 percent were students. These numbers indicate how devastating the disease is for many people besides the infected individual, as Sudanese Men under 30 are usually primary providers for their families. Not to mention that a disease that impairs a student’s ability to go to school lessens the individual’s chance of transcending poverty.

DNDi researchers are hoping to discover a higher success rate with Fosravuconazole and gain enough regional support to partner with a regular manufacturer. Dr. Nathalie Strub-Wourgaft, medical director for the organization, said the team is “very excited about the possibility of a new treatment against this terrible and neglected condition,” as “patients have received little attention and virtually no research.”

The neglected history of mycetoma speaks to larger issues within the global health community. The disease creates a cycle; infected individuals are too isolated to be treated and too few in number to capture the attention of countries who are in a position to offer assistance.

DNDi mycetoma research in Sudan is a much needed step in the right direction. Hopefully, the clinical trial will demonstrate how important it is for the international community to investigate other neglected diseases, especially those which have had a multiplier effect in impoverished communities.

Jessica Levitan

 

Sanctions in Sudan
The U.S. designated Sudan a “state sponsor of terrorism” in 1993 when it was revealed that President Omar al-Bashir’s government was protecting terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden. There have been sanctions in Sudan ever since.

However, it has recently been pointed out by various publications and organizations that the sanctions have not had their desired effect. Foreign Policy, for instance, has pointed out that rather than crippling Sudan’s privileged and corrupt elite, the sanctions have done little more than exacerbate the poverty that 39 percent of the African country’s population lives in. Some would argue that it is, therefore, time to lift sanctions in Sudan.

The ways that the sanctions harm ordinary Sudanese are numerous. For one thing, isolation of the country’s biomedical sector has severely impacted its already dismal state of health care provision. Doctors often have to use outdated technology or black market products because the necessary equipment is too expensive.

Furthermore, scientists and academics cannot perform important research because they are prevented from subscribing to certain journals, buying certain books and accessing databases used by laboratories around the world. It is difficult for them to collaborate with scientists from the U.S. and other more advanced countries, which would be a crucial aspect of development.

Things are similarly tough for aid and development institutions. Though food, medicine and humanitarian assistance are technically exempted from sanctions, obtaining waivers is difficult and sometimes impossible. Many organizations would like to deal with Sudan balk because of the need to navigate thorny bureaucratic territory to secure special licenses. In other developing countries, a lot of this work would be performed by intermediary banks but since complying with the sanctions is such a hassle, many are unwilling to do so.

The IMF has reported that the dissolution of relations between Sudanese banks and their foreign counterparts is in large part the result of U.S. policy. Last year, the French bank BNP Paribas, after being caught doing business with Sudan, Iran and Cuba, was forced to pay an $8.9 billion penalty. This punishment has highlighted the increased risks banks have faced since 9/11 in dealing with countries that have some history of financing or otherwise abetting terrorism.

Despite having in these ways taken a significant toll on ordinary Sudanese, the sanctions have failed to oust Bashir from power or put an end to violence in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions. To lift sanctions in Sudan would allow the country new opportunities to develop and address its economic and political crises.

Up until recently, such change seemed like a pipe dream, since U.S.-Sudan relations have kept at a destructive standstill. However, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is looking to loosen things up.

According to TheHill.com, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) are hoping to undo travel restrictions that halt travel between Sudan and the U.S. The legislation they plan to introduce “would allow individuals from countries in the Visa Waiver Program who have dual citizenship with Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan to travel to the United States without a visa.” A bipartisan group of representatives plans to introduce similar legislation in the House.

These moves are not as major as a decision to lift sanctions in Sudan but they do point to the possibility that momentum will be gained in that direction in the near future.

Joe D’Amore

Sources: Foreign Policy, IMF, The Hill 1, The Hill 2, Flickr

Data Literacy
The World Bank has launched a data literacy program to improve evidence-based policymaking and development outcomes in Sudan.

Funded by UKAid, experts from the World Bank will work over the next eight months to bridge the gap between data producers and data consumers. The program will bring together statisticians, who produce oftentimes complex development indicators, and journalists, academics and government officials, who use this data to inform policymaking.

“This initiative is timely,” said World Bank Country Representative to Sudan, Xavier Furtado. “In addition to better quality data, the World Bank hopes that the Evidence Base Program will contribute to greater transparency and accountability in how public policy is debated and decisions are made.”

Sudan faces a complex set of development issues requiring sound policy.

The most recent data from the World Health Organization indicates that the under-five mortality rate is 77 per 1000 children, the maternal mortality rate is 360 per 100,000 live births and the number of deaths due to tuberculosis is just over 25 per 100,000 citizens. The most recent data from The World Bank indicates that 46.5 percent of the population in Sudan is living in poverty.

But WHO notes that its figures haven’t been updated since 2013 and Sudan didn’t begin to measure these statistics until between 1990 and 2000. The World Bank also notes that its figures have not been updated since 2009. On the World Bank’s 0-100 scale of level of statistical capacity, Sudan sits just above 51, compared to the average for all sub-Saharan African countries of 70.

Finding solutions to the challenges facing Sudan will require targeted, efficient development programs and leaders cannot hope to make progress without first filling its data literacy and acquisition gaps.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has also been working toward this objective. Since 2006, UNDP has hosted workshops designed to train government representatives on how to understand, analyze and utilize development data – hoping to foster better aid policy.

“We understand that changes will not happen overnight,” Furtado said. But by building capacity to collect, analyze and manage reliable data at national and provincial levels through its new program, the World Bank hopes to ingrain data use into the development culture of the fragile state. In turn, they estimate that better programs and more inclusive economic growth will occur.

Ron Minard

Sources: UNDP, WHO, World Bank 1, World Bank 2
Photo: USAID

Darfur Genocide
The Darfur Genocide is one of the worst human rights abuses of modern time. Over 90 diverse tribes and sub-clans populate the region of Darfur which is located in western Sudan. With a pre-conflict population of 6 million people, tensions within the region leading to the Darfur Genocide were produced by multiple interconnected factors including ethnic conflict, economic instability and political opportunism.

The level of violence and destruction at the height of the Darfur genocide was staggering. In 2005, the Coalition for International Justice interviewed 1,136 Darfur refugees located in 19 camps in neighboring Chad. A staggering 61 percent of the respondents noted that they had witnessed the killing of one of their family members.

 

Top 10 Darfur Genocide Facts:

 

  1. In 1989, then-General Omar al-Bashir seized control of Sudan through a military coup. The country was in the middle of a 21-year civil war between the North and South regions when the leader came to power and tensions continued to build. Conflicts began to increase within the ethnically diverse Darfur and weapons started flowing into the area due to a struggle for political control.
  2. The conflict escalated in 2003 when two non-Arab rebel groups within Darfur, the Sudan Liberian Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, accused the government of neglecting the region and took up arms against it. The Sudanese government, led by al-Bashir, quickly responded with a counter-insurgency campaign against the rebels and began backing a brutal Arab militia known as the Janjaweed. Civilians within the country were the ones to ultimately pay the price for the escalating violence and began receiving a barrage of attacks from the government, pro-government troops and rebel groups.
  3. The dispute is generally racial and not religious in nature. Muslim Arab Sudanese (the Janjaweed militia group) systematically targeted, displaced, and murdered Muslim black Sudanese individuals within the Darfur region. The victims are generally from non-Arab tribal groups.
  4. According to the United Human Rights Council, over 400 villages were completely destroyed through the conflict, forcing mass amounts of civilians to be displaced from their homes. The Janjaweed would set out to destroy the houses and buildings within the community, shooting the men and gang-raping the women and children. Families would be separated and killed. Those who escaped the brutal onslaught would then be faced with an arduous journey to find refuge.
  5. Many citizens fled the violence and relocated to refugee camps within the area and neighboring Chad. According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, approximately two million individuals are still displaced due to the violence, with the majority having left their homes between 2003 and 2005 — the height of the conflict.
  6. Malnutrition, starvation and disease were serious concerns. Residents have been able to receive limited humanitarian assistance during the conflict due to the Sudanese government hindering aid efforts within the region and violence against humanitarian programs already in place. According to UNICEF, attacks on humanitarian vehicles, convoys, and compounds are common, impacting the availability of vital aid services. Approximately 25 to 30 international relief organizations have left the area due to security concerns or have been expelled by the government, as reported by The Washington Post.
  7. In June 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched investigations into the human rights violations occurring in Darfur. According to the United Human Rights Council, the government refused to cooperate with the investigations and denied any connection with the Janjaweed militia group.
  8. On March 4, 2009, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first-ever sitting president of a country to be indicted by the ICC for directing a campaign of mass killing, and rape against civilians in Darfur. His accusations according to the BBC include crimes of humanity including murder, extermination, rape and torture, as well as war crimes including attacks on civilians in Darfur, and pillaging towns and villages.
  9. The United Nations estimates that as many as 300,000 individuals have been killed since the start of the Darfur conflict in 2003. The majority of these casualties are from civilian men, women and children who lived within communities throughout the area.
  10. While the conflict has eased, it is by no means over. According to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, levels of violence have increased since the start of 2013. Approximately 400,000 individuals were displaced from their homes during the first half of 2014 alone as the Darfur crisis persists.

Lauren Lewis

Sources: BBC, United Human Rights Council, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Darfur Australia Network, UNICEF, The Washington Post, Sudan Research, Analysis, Advocacy
Photo: Haiku Deck

16293336246_8e162323ad_kAlthough we are close to completely eradicating extreme poverty, the goal has not quite yet been met. Limited access to education or dropping out due to extreme poverty is too common of an occurrence.

According to a report by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, in Sudan alone, 3,000,000 children between the ages of 5 and 13 are not receiving an education. Children in poverty are 15 times more likely to never attend or drop out of school when compared to their richer counterparts.

Twelve-year-old Awad Ahmed dropped out of school in seventh grade in order to wash cars on the streets of Khartoum in Sudan. Awad did not drop out because he wanted to — he still dreams that one day he can become a doctor.

However, Awad’s father passed away two years ago, and there is no one to help his mother support him and his two little sisters.

On his situation and drop out, Awad told reporters from Aljazeera that his “father passed away two years ago. [He] is the man of the house now. Who will provide food but me?” Unfortunately, Awad’s story is far from uncommon.

Many of the children who were once able to attend school, dropped out because of issues caused by the extreme poverty in which they live.

Many families in poverty cannot afford to prioritize the costs associated with sending their child or children to school; for instance, school fees, uniforms and transportation. Going to school is simply not a priority or even an option when a family hardly has enough food on the table.

More often than not, in conjunction with school expenses, parents just cannot afford to lose the help on the farm or sending their children to do enforced work every day in order to help support the family.

The cycle of poverty also comes into play here. Children with uneducated parents at home, who were unable to attend or finish school themselves because of poverty, are also less likely to get or complete their education.

dropout_rates

In addition, the plight of girls trying to get an education is especially bleak. Because of societal roles and gender discrimination, many girls’ parents do not even think of sending their female child to school.

In many of these communities, it is more important that a young girl learns to be a proper wife. Also, girls are often forced to marry young, never having the opportunity to be empowered to become more through education.

Girls account for more than 54 percent of the children not attending school worldwide. But in places similar to Sudan, such as Yemen, that number skyrockets to 80 percent.

UNICEF is supporting the governments of developing countries, such as Sudan, in their attempt to promote and execute initiatives to get kids to attend school and to encourage those who have dropped out to return.

These programs are being implemented on both the state and community level, all the way down to every single individual household.

UNICEF continues to play an active role in helping to rehabilitate current schools, build new ones and provide learning materials, recreation and tablets to children who live a nomadic lifestyle. UNICEF is also a huge advocate for free education for all children.

Both UNICEF and the government are focusing on implementing annual back-to-school campaigns to encourage enrollment and lower dropout rates.

These campaigns will target states with the lowest enrollment through a door-to-door approach. They literally want to go home to home, encouraging and helping families to enroll their children for school.

Allison Parker, UNICEF’s head of communications in Sudan, says it best when she urges to Al Jazeera that “it is important to allocate more resources to the states and localities to implement education development plans and to ensure the effective implementation of existing education policies, especially free education.”

Every child, worldwide, deserves the chance at an education and a better life because of it.

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: Al Jazeera, Middle East & North Africa Out-Of-School Children Initiative 1, Humanium, Middle East & North Africa Out-Of-School Children Initiative 2
Photo: Flickr1, Flickr2

AIDS and TBIn an August 11th press release, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) announced a $41 million financial injection to Sudan to advance its response to the HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) epidemic.

Sudan is an African Country in the Nile Valley of North Africa bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest.

Although recent years have seen improvements in the response to HIV/AIDS and TB, the illnesses maintain their death grip on the population.

The UNDP, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health in Sudan and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, has created two new partnership agreements totaling $41 million for the country to continue fighting the deadly diseases.

The funding is broken into two grants. The first grant worth $20.4 million will be used to manage and track the decrease in TB cases from now until 2017, as well as to commit to identifying more new cases.

By identifying more cases of TB, the disease can be better controlled and spread less. The grant will also go toward improving treatment for 90 percent of newly infected patients as well as for 75 percent of those undergoing a relapse.

The second grant amounting to $20.8 million will go toward halting the spread of HIV among communities most at risk between now and 2017. The grant will also work at keeping the HIV prevalence rate below 2.5 percent among key populations and below 0.3 percent among the general population.

The UNDP, since 2005, has been a key organization assisting Sudan with its ongoing health care challenges. It’s played an important role in decreasing the transmission and morbidity rate of HIV and TB plaguing the Sudanese.

In the past few years, the UNDP has assisted the government with containing the epidemic, increasing service coverage and strengthening the national health system.

The UNDP website reported that the number of people accessing HIV counseling and testing increased from 14,000 in 2007 to more than 250,000 in 2014. In the same period, the number of health facilities providing antiretroviral treatment increased from 21 to 36.

Also, as of 2014, the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment has increased to 3,937 from only 319 back in 2007.

UNDP Sudan Country Director Mr. Selva Ramachandran was quoted in the press release to say, “UNDP’s goal is to strengthen the response at the national, state and local level by supporting the development of local expertise and backstopping program performance.

To get TB under control, the authorities are planning to provide social support to patients and develop a national campaign to fight the stigma and discrimination that severely hinders TB efforts. Regarding HIV, testing is essential to bend the curve of the epidemic and we remain committed to supporting the provision of HIV testing, counseling and treatment to those in need.”

In nations like Sudan, poverty grips the population and health care can be almost nonexistent. With the help of the UNDP and the extra funding given, the fight to help the poor in Sudan has again gained momentum, and another dent in ridding these ugly diseases has been made.

Jason Zimmerman

Sources: United Nations Development Programme, The Global Fund,
Photo: Flickr

Measles
The Nuba Mountains in Sudan were once seen as a sanctuary but because of their remoteness and ongoing military struggle in the area, the largest measles crisis in years is currently sweeping across Sudan. Due to the power struggle between the government and rebels, children have been denied access to immunization.

The measles virus is spread by respiratory transmission and is highly contagious. Up to 90 percent of people without immunity who are sharing a house with an infected person will catch it.

According to UNICEF, Sudan has already seen 2,700 cases of measles this year. “Of these, roughly one in 10 will die. The fear now is that, with around 150,000 children under 5 in the Nuba Mountains who have had no reliable access to immunization since 2011, the situation could explode.”

Without immunization, there is a real potential that more lives will be lost to measles than to the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. However, in this case, the majority of lives lost will be children.

Sudan’s recent outbreak of measles is not caused by a lack of immunization efforts. In April 2015, UNICEF launched an immunization campaign to first vaccinate children in the highest risk states and then expanding into other areas identified to be at risk.

Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Representative in Sudan said, “Measles is a life-threatening disease but on that can easily be prevented with timely immunization. Every girl and boy must be reached no matter where they live. There are no excuses and no child can be left out.”

Children are the most at risk for contracting measles; children who are malnourished are even more vulnerable. For malnourished children, measles can cause serious health complications including blindness, ear infections, pneumonia, and severe diarrhea.

“In Sudan, some 36 percent of children are stunted and the country has one of the highest levels of malnutrition in Africa. Of the total number of reported measles cases in Sudan, 69 percent are below 15 years of age, including 52 percent under the age of five.” A large portion of the children in Sudan is at risk to contract measles.
With the dispute over border territory around the South Kordofan region, the region has struggled to see vital humanitarian aid that is a crucial lifeline. Since 2011, the region has not seen food and medical supplies.

For the partners of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, there are few options left to deliver the much-needed vaccines. UNICEF and the World Health Organization have put their support behind the efforts of the Ministry of Health.

Another option is to try to get vaccines delivered by partner organizations that are still working in the area. These organizations include Doctors Without Borders and faith-based organizations such as Caritas. However, these organizations are not given immunity and vaccines cannot be promised to be delivered.

In light of this situation, it is also a learning opportunity. Governments must be more proactive about not just responding to humanitarian disasters but by also preventing them. The warning signs need to be recognized. “After all, for any country to have a future it must protect its children.”

Kerri Szulak

Sources: CNN, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr

us_aid_to_darfur
While Darfur has been at the head of aid policy for a long time, aid may be more important to the region than it has been historically.

In 2003, war in Darfur erupted, partially due to the lack of resources and the diversity of groups living in the area.

Poverty and diversity working together to create conflict is not unique to Sudan, but rather is something that I have seen as well in Kenya. Africa was split into countries, not by groups who wanted to live together, but by European countries seeking land and resources. Now, the people of those countries, including Kenya, are impoverished and left with few resources.

It is easy for groups who did not ever mean to live together to fight over the remaining resources. In Kenya, the conflict is often in the form of cattle raids. In Darfur, there was a split between Arabs and non-Arabs that led to a war against the non-Arab population in Darfur, leaving thousands dead and many more as refugees.

The United States has been providing assistance to Sudan since before this conflict, starting in about the 1980s, but US aid to Darfur did not begin until much later. When the conflict began, USAID became a leader in the effort to stabilize Darfur.

USAID had made progress in transforming the Government of Southern Sudan into a stable government (although civil war has broken out once again). In addition, the organization has provided a million people with access to clean water, as well as increasing the number of children in school.

In May, USAID provided Sudan with emergency food assistance of 47,500 metric tons of grain.

This assistance is crucial at this point in time. Violence in Darfur is increasing and Sudanese people are being recruited into ISIS. Recently, a groups of Sudanese students fled to Syria in order to join the organization.

Areas undergoing political transition and violence are easy places for terrorist groups like ISIS to target as recruitment grounds and safe havens. Darfur is possibly more at-risk for this because of its conflict that began, in part, from Arabs in the region feeling discriminated against.

If Muslims in Darfur continue to feel as if there is no future in their country, because of conflict and poverty, and continue to feel discriminated against, even the United Nations is afraid that Darfur could be a “breeding ground” for extremist groups like ISIS.

Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, however, would like for the African Union and United Nation’s troops to pull out of Darfur. Yet, this is not the time.

In light of the conflict, and rise of ISIS, Darfur can use all of the aid that it can get. The United States should continue to be a role model in helping Darfur by increasing aid to the region. With increased aid, hopefully other leaders in world aid will follow suit and increase aid to the region.

The increased emergency food aid was a good first step, but perhaps increased structural aid should come next.

– Clare Holtzman

Sources: Aid Data, All Africa, WN, Brookings, National Bureau of Economic Research, Open Democracy, Poverties, Reuters, Slate, Time, Thomas Reuters Foundation, USAID
Photo: End Genocide