Sudan: People cut off from healthcare at high risk of malnutrition and diseases in Omdurman

Sudan: People cut off from healthcare at high risk of malnutrition and diseases in Omdurman
26 Aug 2022
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“I have two children who are very sick. One is 10 months old. He has difficulty breathing and has severe fever. My other son is four years old and refuses to eat,” says Agnes*, at the MSF clinic near Omdurman city in Sudan.

“I used traditional medicine like aloe vera leaves and tea to relieve the fever and help my child’s breathing, because I don’t have any money for medication.”

Recent political and economic crises in Sudan have resulted in high inflation, making it difficult for people to afford essential items. According to the World Food Programme’s last update in June 2022, the price of the local food basket in Sudan increased by 57.8 per cent since the beginning of 2022.

For decades difficult situation for many people in Sudan has also been compounded by drought and conflict. As a result, people from across different states of Sudan, as well as refugees from neighbouring countries, have moved to Omdurman in Khartoum State, to access basic services such as healthcare close to the capital.

“To make sure my children got the treatment they needed, we left our house at 5 am by foot. We arrived here at 9 am. When I arrived at the clinic, I had to prioritise my eldest son because he doesn't eat or drink,” says Agnes.

As well as high levels of malnutrition, our teams have also witnessed the spread of diseases, such as respiratory tract infections, acute diarrhoea, skin and eye diseases, and neglected tropical diseases.

Sudan: People cut off from healthcare at high risk of malnutrition and diseases in Omdurman

Since 2020, we have provided general healthcare to the most vulnerable people near Omdurman city, Khartoum State. Our mobile teams are working in four locations: Nivasha open area, Nivasha camp, Block 48 and Hamashkoreb, providing preventive and curative healthcare to children under 15, vaccinations, as well as reproductive healthcare for women.

People in Umbada locality, where most of the houses in the area are built of mud, live in harsh conditions with difficulty accessing clean water and sanitation. They also face multiple obstacles in accessing basic services, from poor road infrastructure, limited access to transportation and work opportunities, which also result in healthcare exclusion. Healthcare services are not accessible or affordable and are often of poor quality.

“The political and economic crisis have further deteriorated the humanitarian needs, when you look around, the acute needs are everywhere and the gaps in Khartoum State are yet to be bridged,” says Atsuhiko Ochiai MSF head of Mission.

“Most families living in the area can barely afford food, let alone medicine. People may die at home if they get sick," says Mohammed Abdullah, one of the residents in Nivasha area, Omdurman.

Amidst the spread of preventable diseases like diarrhoea and tropical diseases such as malaria during the rainy season, MSF teams are conducting daily health promotion activities with patients in the area. Our teams are raising awareness on the importance of hygiene practices to avoid the transmission of diseases, as well as the importance of vaccination for children.

Sudan: People cut off from healthcare at high risk of malnutrition and diseases in Omdurman

“We see that people here are interested to know more about different health topics through their interaction and questions during the sessions we hold. This makes us more determined to pass the right messages and contribute to containing diseases and helping the community,” says Fatima Az Zahara Abdulrahman, MSF health promoter in the Omdurman project.

Our teams are also providing infection prevention control (IPC), as well as water and sanitation support to health care centres in the Umbada locality. In addition, we have begun the integration of nutrition activities in these clinics.

*Name changed to protect identity.

MSF has worked in Sudan since 1978 and today runs projects in Khartoum, Gedaref, Blue Nile, West Darfur, Central Darfur, South Darfur and Kassala states, with emergency teams launching responses in other areas as needed.