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Sudan: Children dying amid healthcare system collapse

According to the UN refugee agency (UNCHR) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the children were refugees living in nine camps in Sudan’s White Nile state. 

UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi insisted that the world had “the means and the money” to prevent every one of those deaths. 

He called for an end to the fighting and for more financial support for the emergency response in the country. The UN’s 2023 Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan launched in May remains only 30 per cent funded.

Disease outbreaks

UNHCR said that over 3,100 suspected measles cases and more than 500 suspected cholera cases were reported from 15 May to 15 September in Sudan, along with outbreaks of dengue and malaria. The UN agency pointed to a context of “increased epidemic risk” and challenges for epidemic control. 

UNHCR’s Chief of Public Health, Dr. Allen Maina, told reporters in Geneva that the situation has “brought health care in the country to its knees”.

4 out of 5 hospitals shuttered

According to WHO, some 11 million people in Sudan require health assistance. The UN agency’s health operations team lead for the country, Dr Ilham Nour, said that 3.4 million children under five were acutely malnourished and millions of people required care for chronic diseases, including 8,500 patients in need of renal dialysis. 

Latest reports indicate that up to 80 per cent of hospitals in conflict-affected states are not functional, Dr Nour said. Since the start of the war, WHO has verified 56 attacks targeting health facilities, health assets, transport, health workers and patients, in violation of international humanitarian law.

A barge leaves a pier in Renk, Upper Nile State, South Sudan, carrying hundreds of South Sudanese returnees who have fled the conflict in Sudan.
© UNHCR/Samuel Otieno

A barge leaves a pier in Renk, Upper Nile State, South Sudan, carrying hundreds of South Sudanese returnees who have fled the conflict in Sudan.

Newborn deaths

The lack of access to treatment and “relentless” attacks on health and nutrition services have also prompted an alert from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that “many thousands of newborns” will die in Sudan by the end of the year. 

UNICEF spokesperson James Elder highlighted the care needs for the 333,000 children who will be born in Sudan between October and December and their mothers. He said that Sudan’s youngest citizens may be entering “a period of unprecedented mortality” and warned that there were more and more reports of children being recruited into armed groups. 

Mr. Elder also described the education crisis as 12 million Sudanese children waited for schools to reopen.

Dedicated staffers

He paid tribute to the courage and resilience of Sudan’s frontline public service workers and said that nurses, doctors, teachers, social workers have not received a salary in months, while inflation in the country ran rampant. 

“And yet they turn up to work,” he said, adding that their character and dedication “cannot restock supplies or repair blown up hospitals”. 

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