With more than 4 million displaced people, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is deeply concerned by the deterioration in health conditions in Sudan since April 2023. The situation is also worrying in the 10 refugee camps, as well as at border entry points and transit centers in neighboring countries, where people forced to flee are arriving.
According to teams from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on the ground, needs far exceed what can be provided with available resources. In White Nile State, the lack of essential medicines, staff and supplies is severely hampering health and nutrition services in the 10 refugee camps, where more than 144,000 refugees newly displaced from Khartoum have arrived since the start of the clashes between the forces of generals Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and Mohamed Hamdane Daglo. The clinics also have to deal with thousands of South Sudanese refugees and local communities.
Lots of travel
More than 4 million people have been forced to flee within Sudan and to neighboring regions since the start of the conflict. This figure includes nearly 700,000 refugees and asylum-seekers who have fled to neighboring countries, and 195,000 South Sudanese forced to return to their country of origin. In Sudan, over 3 million people are internally displaced, including more than 187,000 refugees who were already resident in the country at the start of the crisis.
According to UNHCR spokesman William Spindler in Geneva, malnutrition rates, epidemics and deaths linked to the displacement of families with little food continue to rise. Between May 15 and July 17, over 300 deaths, mainly among children under 5, were reported due to measles and malnutrition. If funding for vital health programs continues to be delayed, this figure is likely to rise.
Health services overwhelmed
The chronic shortage of health personnel, and the attacks against them reported by the World Health Organization, have considerably compromised the quality of care throughout Sudan. On the one hand, health services are overloaded, and on the other, the breakdown of supply chains has led to shortages of medicines and other supplies. In addition, the number of cases of cholera and malaria is expected to rise in the coming months due to flooding caused by incessant rainfall and inadequate sanitation facilities.
On the other side of the border, the situation is just as grim. The health and nutritional status of people arriving from Sudan has deteriorated sharply since the start of the conflict in April, and continues to worsen. Underfunding is severely hampering the response in Southern Sudan, where 57 children, most of them under the age of 5, have died of measles and malnutrition in Renk (Upper Nile State). Similarly, in Chad, only 17 mobile clinics are operational at 15 sites in border areas and refugee camps where people are arriving. More than 2,400 wounded refugees and returnees have arrived to date, requiring urgent medical care, with around 130 wounded admitted every day in June.
In collaboration with health sector partners and government authorities, UNHCR is working to step up the response. Humanitarian agencies have deployed additional staff and volunteers to camps, border entry points and transit centers to support malnutrition screening and other services. Teams are also providing medical kits, increasing the number of measles vaccinations for children, and rehabilitating existing facilities while creating new ones. A spokesman for the agency in charge of refugees said that "we are doing everything in our power to move new arrivals quickly from border entry points and transit centers to avoid overcrowding and curb the spread of deadly diseases. However, we need more donor support to save lives".
Additional funds are desperately needed to support the provision of healthcare and other life-saving assistance. Of the $566 million required by UNHCR and other partners to provide assistance to Sudan's neighboring countries, only 29% has been received. The inter-agency response within Sudan is only 24% funded.