Supporting high impact interventions to save lives of mother and babies
In Sudan the health system is fragile, with health indicators being consistently low and enormous disparities existing between urban and rural areas and between rich and poor.
Lack of investment in health system strengthening puts at risk over 8 million children under 5 years of age who will not be able to access essential and lifesaving services.
78,000 children under 5 years of age are dying every year from preventable causes, such as malaria, and it is estimated that this figure will triple if investments within the health sector continue to decline.
Access to health services is often a big challenge for many Sudanese families
Only 70 per cent of the population has access to a health facility within 30 minutes travel from their home (and 80 per cent has access to health facilities within one-hour’s travel).
And when a health facility is reached, care is of insufficient quality.
Only half of the people who visited a health facility were attended to by a skilled health worker. Consequently, the coverage of health services for mothers and children is one of the lowest in the region. For example, only a quarter of sick children suffering from diarrhea were brought to a health centre for treatment. Of these children, only 27 per cent was provided with treatment for diarrhea (oral rehydration solution).
As a result, still too many infants die from preventable or treatable conditions
The significant reduction in under-five mortality, from 128 (1990) to 68.4 (2014) per 1,000 live births, contrasts with the limited progress in neonatal mortality. According to the United Nations Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UNIGME) report for 2021, while the under-five mortality rate has further declined to 56 per 1,000 live births, the neonatal mortality stands at 29 per 1,000 livebirths. Children continue to die mainly from preventable or easily treatable conditions such as acute respiratory infections (inducing pneumonia), diarrhea and malaria. Malnutrition is often an underlying cause or mortality – a silent killer.
Not only child mortality but also maternal mortality is high
Maternal mortality is related to a lack of skilled birth attendants and antenatal care. Maternal mortality was estimated at 295 per 100,000 live births, with most deaths due to home deliveries without the presence of skilled birth attendants and the lack of emergency obstetric care at medical facilities. Even though 85 per cent of pregnant women conduct at least one antenatal care visit, the proportion of those who conducted at least four antenatal care visits is just over half. Only 34 per cent of young mothers and their newborns receive post-natal care services. In addition, 69 per cent of women receive their tetanus toxoid vaccination.
Not all children are reached with life-saving vaccinations
The annualized EPI coverage as of end of November 2021, indicated that 84 per cent (1,313,458) of children under one year of age received their third dose of pentavalent vaccine with a drop-out rate of 3 per cent compared to the first dose of pentavalent vaccine. Around 82 per cent of children (1,1,281,745) received their first dose of measles while those who received their second dose equal 64 per cent (1,091,399 children).
Outbreaks of communicable diseases are common
In 2021, Sudan suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic and other vector-borne diseases. The inadequate health coverage combined with poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure among other factors, contributed to the rise of diseases. Thirteen out of Sudan’s eighteen states, including the eastern states, Gezira, Sennar, River Nile, and the Darfurs experienced one or more outbreaks of chikungunya, dengue fever, rift valley fever or diphtheria. Medical facilities across the country faced shortages of essential drugs, further weakening the national response.
UNICEF’s health programme contributes to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Three: ensure healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages. Despite the unprecedented challenges faced due to the political and economic instability and continued COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF works with partners to reach vulnerable children and their communities through applying a holistic and integrated approach, that enabled continued provision of lifesaving health services.
UNICEF supports systems strengthening activities, through strategic technical, policy and financial investments, thereby advancing the rights of children and women in Sudan with high-impact health and nutrition programmes including in humanitarian situations.
UNICEF supports the procurement, delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility, including for refugees and migrants, was led by UNICEF alongside partners.