Sudan is the third-largest country in Africa and boasts a rich history that traces back to antiquity. Decades of unrest and civil war have crippled the economy and seriously stunted the development of domestic infrastructure, including basic sanitation. In recent years, the Sudanese government, along with the international community, has taken steps towards addressing these challenges. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Sudan.
10 Facts About Sanitation in Sudan
- Open Defecation: More than 30 percent of the population practices open defecation, which is more than any other North African nation. This practice is most prevalent in rural areas where nearly 70 percent of Sudan’s population resides. Open defecation poses serious risks to clean water sources and exposes a large portion of the population to diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis and intestinal parasites.
- Waterborne Illnesses and Poor Sanitation: The most common result of absent clean water sources is dysentery. In Sudan, diarrhea causes around 12 percent of child deaths. Cholera outbreaks are common, the most recent being in October 2019 and infecting nearly 300 people.
- Menstrual Hygiene: People in Sudan treat menstruation with a lot of stigma and shame. Many women resort to unsanitary devices to conceal menstrual bleeding. Unsafe water also increases the chance of infection. Female hygiene resources and education in rural areas have been instrumental in reducing illness, infection and childhood mortality rates. UNICEF has helped develop gender-segregated bathrooms at schools to provide private space for girls to assist with menstrual management.
- Water Treatment Facilities: In the last 10 years, Sudan pledged $1 billion in funding for the development and maintenance of clean water sources, wells and pumping stations with the help of the international community. The use of these improved water sources has increased by 55 percent.
- WASH: Sudan has targeted rural areas with the WASH (water and sanitation hygiene) initiative with the help of NGOs like Near East Foundation (NEF), USAID and UNICEF. They hope to ensure clean water access to all Sudanese households by 2025 by drilling wells and developing water sanitation facilities.
- International Community: WHO and UNDP have been key in their funding of NGOs in Sudan, specifically UNICEF. In fact, 2.3 million Sudanese gained access to clean water between 2013 and 2015 because of their efforts.
- Civil Unrest: Sudan has experienced multiple civil wars and a 30-year-long military dictatorship under Omar al-Bashir. Due to these events of civil unrest, many areas of state development suffered underfunding or neglect. In April 2019, protests forced Omar al-Bashir to resign his post. This has instilled new hope and desire for social-civilian infrastructure to address public health and sanitation.
- Poor System Supply Chains and Limited Government Resources Diminish Clean Water Access: Sudan has worked to improve clean water access in recent decades, but while 68 percent of households have access to some form of clean water, nearly 30 percent of rural clean water treatment systems are inoperable or understaffed due to deficiencies within the government. Years of civil war and public unrest have significantly crippled supply chains and government oversight.
- Hygiene Education: Only 25 percent of Sudanese use soap when washing their hands, a statistic that USAID has focused on inverting. Nationwide campaigns have emerged to educate the public on hand-washing. Additionally, UNICEF issued educational resources to more than 14,000 schools and numerous mosques, ultimately reaching around 4.2 million children.
- Sudan National Sanitation and Hygiene Strategic Framework (SNSHSF): The SNSHSF emerged in 2016, a cohesive consulting force consisting of government and private sector individuals and committees to bring modern improvements to Sudan’s sanitation infrastructure. Funded by UNICEF and WHO, this organization has been key to developing and implementing strategies to ensure basic sanitation needs for the public.
While these 10 facts about sanitation in Sudan show the country’s challenges regarding open defecation, handwashing and water treatment, it is clearly making efforts to improve. With continued efforts from Sudan’s government, the international community and NGOs, the country should eventually be able to grant basic sanitation to all.
– Tiernán Gordon