Update on Sudan

Conflict in Sudan – 4 million people displaced exacerbates health conditions.

More than 4 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the crisis in Sudan. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) expresses deep concern about worsening health conditions throughout the country, including in refugee camps, border entry points and transit centres in neighbouring nations, where those who have been forced to flee are arriving.

The situation in Sudan, where UNHCR teams operate, is unbearable, as needs far outstrip available resources. In White Nile State, shortages of medicines, staff and supplies are having a serious impact on health and nutrition services in the 10 refugee camps. More than 144,000 newly displaced people from Khartoum have joined these camps since the beginning of the conflict, increasing the already existing demands of South Sudanese refugees and local communities sharing the same clinics. Mental health and psychosocial support services are virtually non-existent.

Since the beginning of the conflict, more than 4 million people have been displaced in Sudan and into neighbouring nations. This includes nearly 700,000 refugees and asylum seekers in neighbouring countries, and 195,000 South Sudanese who have been forced to return to South Sudan. More than 3.2 million people are internally displaced in Sudan, including more than 187,000 refugees who were already living in the country at the beginning of the crisis.

An injection of funds to provide medical and other vital assistance is imperative. So far, only 29% of the $566 million required by UNHCR and other partners for the Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) to provide assistance in countries bordering Sudan has been raised. In addition, the inter-agency response within Sudan is only 24% funded.

As families continue to be displaced for weeks with scarce food and medicine, malnutrition rates are rising, as are disease outbreaks and related deaths. Between May 15 and July 17, more than 300 deaths, mostly of children under 5 years old, have been reported due to measles and malnutrition. If funding for life-saving health programmes continues to be delayed, this number is likely to continue to grow. Chronic shortages of health personnel and attacks on staff, highlighted by the World Health Organization, have significantly eroded the quality of medical care throughout the country. Diagnoses from UNHCR teams in White Nile reveal that there are at least 70 patients per doctor per day, well above medical recommendations and a clear sign that services are stretched to capacity. The breakdown of supply chains has resulted in shortages of medicines and other crucial supplies for hundreds of thousands of people in need.

In addition, an increase in cholera and malaria cases is expected in the coming months due to flooding caused by constant rains and lack of adequate sanitation facilities. In neighbouring countries, the situation is equally heart-breaking. The health and nutritional status of those arriving from Sudan has deteriorated drastically since the start of the conflict in April and continues to worsen. Lack of funding is having a serious impact on the response in South Sudan, where 57 children, mostly under the age of 5, have died from measles and malnutrition in Renk. 15 of them just in early August, according to a briefing released from Geneva on 8th August 2023. Similarly, in Chad, only 17 mobile clinics are operational in 15 locations at border points and refugee camps. More than 2,400 wounded refugees and returnees have so far arrived in need of urgent medical attention, with around 130 casualties recorded daily in June.

UNHCR, in collaboration with health sector partners and government authorities, is working tirelessly to scale up the response. More staff and volunteers have been deployed to camps, border posts and transit centres to provide malnutrition screening and other services. Teams are also providing medical kits, increasing measles vaccinations for children and upgrading existing facilities while creating new ones. In addition, an effort is underway to quickly relocate new arrivals from border entry points and transit centres to prevent overcrowding and stop the spread of deadly diseases. However, more donor support is needed to save lives.

31st August 2023

[Translated from Spanish]

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