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Healthcare is a key public service worldwide. It enables individuals and the general public to have a better quality of life in the short term, but also increases life expectancy in the long term. Furthermore, it is a life-saving resource, especially, when a quick onset crisis emerges as a result of war.


According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SDG-3 aspires to ensure health and well-being for all, including a bold commitment to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other communicable diseases by 2030. It also aims to achieve universal health coverage and provide access to safe and effective medicines and vaccines for all. 

 

The healthcare system in Sudan is fragile, with UNICEF reports indicating that health indicators are consistently low, and enormous disparities exist between urban and rural areas and between the rich and the poor. The report further states "only 70% of the population has access to a health facility within 30 minutes of travel from their home (and 80% has access to health facilities within one hour’s travel)."


When those who are seeking services despite all the odds manage to reach the health facilities, the care and services available are of insufficient quality. Only half of the people who visited a health facility were attended to by a skilled health worker.


Jorge Diaz and a friend in El Roseires, Blue Nile State-Sudan. Source: Jorge Diaz  


Deserted health facilities in times of great need


During turmoil, like the current crisis happening in Sudan, the situation surpasses this already fragile context. On a site visit to the Inpatient Therapeutic Feeding Center located in Ad-Damazin (الدمازين) Blue Nile State, in Sudan, I witnessed an unbelievable situation, with empty inpatient rooms and deserted hospital beds.


The deserted Inpatient Therapeutic Feeding Center in Ad-Damazin, Blue Nile State. Source: Jorge Diaz 

 

The reason for having this rather disturbing scenario is not understandable under any approach, except the inhumanity caused by the ongoing conflict in Sudan. How is it possible, not to be able to reach a life-saving resource, especially when wounded Sudanese are at risk of dying every single day?

 

Of course, the reason to have empty healthcare rooms is the fear of people being killed by the warring factions who are positioned near the same facility that would have saved their lives. So, thinking about this dramatic situation, tragic, sad, with lots of mourning, grief, pain, and a sense of hopelessness that is currently undergoing Sudan, anyone may understand the misery caused by war.


Empty beds at the Inpatient Therapeutic Feeding Center. Source: Jorge Diaz 

 

To think that my neighbor is my first enemy is so sad. But war has a long story in Sudan with continuing cycles of clashes, like the October 2022 dispute over land, between members of the Hausa people and rival groups, which caused the death of 170 people and 327 people were injured. 

 

But while the violence was the culmination of long-simmering ethnic tensions between the Hausa people and other rival groups including the Barta, it has further emphasized a wider security breakdown since the military coup of 2022, led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

 

Since the October coup, regular pro-democracy demonstrations across the country were met with crackdown by security forces that has left at least 116 people dead. Before unrest erupted in Blue Nile, the western region of Darfur had already seen months of ethnic clashes that killed hundreds of people.

 

Violence in Sudan between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), puts efforts made towards the country’s progression to civilian rule at risk. For sure, war will not solve disputes but will reproduce an endless cycle of poverty, in addition to emotional wounds that embed trauma in the long term.

 

A glance at an unpredictable future

 

Mental Health is, of course, a key concern in the context of the ongoing war, but a crisis like the one currently happening in Sudan also makes more children drop out of school.

 

In Sudan, schools and learning institutions in conflict affected areas remain mostly closed. Nearly 7 million school-age children were already out of school before the conflict of 2023, one in three girls and one in four boys (UNICEF).

 

These numbers have increased significantly, especially in Khartoum, with girls less likely to return to school. Out of school children are at greater risk of physical and mental threats, including recruitment into armed groups and gender based violence.

 

The same day I visited the ITFC in Ad-Damazin, I found this family, and as it is well known, a picture tells more than a thousand words!


A family sitting outside a deserted health facility. Source: Jorge Diaz 

 

May we find peace soon and restore our lives. Let us pray that God helps us.


Jorge Diaz

Jorge Diaz holds a PhD in Urban Studies, and for the last fifteen years has been engaged in Humanitarian Aid, providing technical assistance in the aftermath of disasters and within fragile contexts. He has been engaged in projects led by the United Nations, and other NGOs, such as Medecins Sans Frontieres, and HOPE-Worldwide.