WHO Regional Director’s statement on visit to Sudan – Sudan

September 18, 2022, Khartoum, Sudan — I have just finished a visit to Sudan where I traveled for three days through three states – Khartoum, Gadarif and Gezira – and met with community leaders and health officials at federal and state level At level, health workers, health partners and other stakeholders work together to improve the health and well-being of all people in Sudan.

The challenges facing Sudan are daunting and complex. I have seen firsthand the struggles faced by communities, health workers and officials, as well as WHO staff and health partners. WHO operates in a context of limited resources and a challenging economic and political situation.

In a refugee camp in Gadarif state, I met Ethiopian families who, despite living in safety and away from conflict, are exposed to harsh elements and outbreaks of diseases such as malaria.

I’ve met with communities living in flood-affected areas in Gezira State and seen stagnant water reservoirs providing a breeding ground for waterborne and vector-borne diseases.

The links between climate change, severe weather events and health are becoming increasingly apparent, including droughts and floods – both of which Sudan has been experiencing recently. The WHO continues to sound the alarm about the link between drought, food security, hunger and disease: apart from malnutrition and the medical complications that can arise, reduced immunity makes people more vulnerable to water-borne and vector-borne diseases, especially when they have access to safe have water is limited.

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Health authorities, WHO, UNICEF and other health partners, as well as committed health workers, are determined to contain this multidimensional health crisis, which seems to be getting worse every year and is being exacerbated by new threats such as civil unrest and intercommunal conflict. COVID-19, monkeypox and increasingly extreme weather events.

In Gezira, where more than 24,000 families have been affected by flooding this year – the highest number since 2013 – the governor told me he is reactivating the Health Council to ensure a multi-sectoral approach to emergency response, strengthen surveillance and coordination.

Statement by the WHO Regional Director on the visit to SudanWhile skilled health workers are the backbone of any health system, the shortage of health workers who are forced to flee Sudan for better opportunities abroad has led to a massive brain drain, leaving the country’s health system in need of additional specialized medical expertise.

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A dedicated team of WHO staff – while personally affected by these threats – is working with all key stakeholders to ensure disease surveillance is supported and that those most at risk, including children, pregnant women and those in need of psychological support need are given the health services they need.

During my visit, we marked the end of the outbreak of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus 2 in Sudan and demonstrated the skill and diligence of health workers and public health officials in the country, as well as the government of Sudan’s extraordinary commitment to preventing child paralysis by this disease.

We also saw increased efforts to curb malaria through an enhanced country-led response with support from WHO and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership.

Sudan’s people, resilient as ever, are determined to make progress in health. For the first time in the country’s history, Sudanese doctors have started performing liver transplants inside the country. Last year, hundreds of children received life-saving heart surgery. And the Mycetoma Research Center at the University of Khartoum – a WHO collaborating center – is working with dozens of medical centers around the world to contribute to global research and development on this flesh-eating disease.

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But in such a challenging context, there is only so much that can be done. If the core roots of this health crisis are not addressed, we risk losing Sudan’s full potential if we continue to make significant health strides.

Peace and health have consistently proven to be synergistic goals, with health being a prerequisite for achieving peace and peace being a critical condition for health.

Until the political and economic situation in Sudan stabilizes and the impacts of climate change are addressed on a global scale, these challenges will continue to hamper our collective work to protect the health and well-being of the millions of men, women and children affected had to survive in the harshest conditions with limited support from the international community beyond immediate humanitarian assistance.

For audiovisual material from Sudan please click here

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