19 December 2023 - Sudan


Nafeesa holds her baby Yaqub at Save the Children clinic

Baby Yaqub*, born at a displacement centre in Sudan thanks to support from a Save the Children mobile health clinic. Photo by Mosaab Hassouna/Save the Children. More content available here

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KHARTOUM, 19 December – Some 29,250 babies in Sudan will be born without medical assistance in the next three months, putting them and their mothers at risk of complications that could have lifelong and even fatal consequences, said Save the Children.

While an estimated 45,000 babies will be born in the next three months across the entire country, according to the UN, only 35% of the population have access to any form of healthcare. This leaves 65% of people without access to hospitals, clinics or trained health professionals, meaning some 29,250 of these babies will be born without any professional support[i].

The first 28 days of a child’s life – the neonatal, or newborn, period – carries the highest risk of death. It is also the most dangerous period for the newborn’s mother. Even before the war that broke out this year, Sudan had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, according to UN data[ii].

The new analysis from Save the Children comes as aid agencies scramble against the clock to fill the gaping funding gap of 60% of the total US $2.6 billion needed to respond to the conflict.

Following months of violence, the health sector has nearly completely collapsed. Health workers, supplies and facilities continue to be targeted by armed groups, and where health facilities remain open, a lack of medical supplies, including blood bags and oxygen, water, fuel and personnel are severely disrupting services.

Dr Arif Noor, Country Director for Save the Children in Sudan, said:

When the conflict that broke out in April, millions of people were pushed into hell. Tens of thousands of new lives will be born into this anguish – more than half with no access to healthcare.

“While much of the world celebrates holidays and marks the end of the calendar year, 22 million children in Sudan are living an everyday nightmare of violence, fear, hunger, illness and distress.

“Even after eight months of aid agencies sounding the alarm, the response to Sudan’s crisis does not even have half the funding required to meet people’s basic needs. What will it take for people to care?

“There is a lot going on in the world right now, but we are pleading with the international community to remember children, their mothers and communities in Sudan.”

Some 25,000 pregnant women are estimated to be on the move across Sudan, likely cut off from health services and the right nutrition needed to support their growing babies[iii]. Nafeesa*, 27, experienced this earlier this year, fleeing her home in Khartoum with her 7-year-old son Ali* while pregnant before giving birth to her son Yaqub* in a shelter for displaced people, with support from Save the Children’s mobile health clinic.

She said: “I delivered Ali* in Khartoum. When I was pregnant with him, I was following up with a doctor, an obstetrician. Every month, I used to go for tests and an ultrasound, and I used to take all my tablets (nutritional supplements) until I delivered naturally.

“There’s a big difference [between now and when I delivered my first baby]. The difference is that when we were there our financial condition was good. But now things have changed since we came here to this complex. When we were there, we were living in our hometown, but now we are displaced.”

Save the Children has worked in Sudan since 1983 and is providing life-saving aid and children protection services together with national and international partners. Since the conflict broke out, Save the Children has reached 250,000 people, including more than 135,000 children and is operating medical and nutrition centres to provide food and other items for displaced families.

Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit provides children and their families with lifesaving, quality healthcare in some of the toughest and hardest-to-reach places in the world. The Emergency Health Unit has teams of experts – including health professionals, water, sanitation and hygiene specialists and supply chain managers – who have decades of experience providing vital healthcare during conflicts, catastrophic natural hazards and disease outbreaks (including Ebola, cholera, COVID-19 and measles).

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[i] This calculation was made by using the UNFPA figure that 45,000 child births will be expected in the next 3 months, along with OCHA data that 65% of the population does not have access to healthcare.

[ii] Trends in Maternal Mortality, 2000 – 2020, published February 2023. Estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and UNDESA/Population Division. 9789240068759-eng.pdf (who.int)

[iii] UNFPA Sudan Emergency Situation Report No.8 - 11 December 2023 - Sudan | ReliefWeb


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