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Launch of Darfur Basic Services projects

Remarks by UNICEF Sudan Representative, Mr Geert Cappelaere


I am very pleased to be here today, celebrating the launch of EU investment in Darfur Basic Social Services, focusing on East and South Darfur.

Investing in Darfur is critical. It is critical for the children of Darfur, for Darfur itself, and for Sudan as a whole.

A decade of conflict has taken a hard toll on people in Darfur, especially on children, and up to 65 per cent of IDP populations are children. Growing up in an IDP camp may be a ‘good enough’ interim response to sheltering, feeding and protecting children and their families, but we cannot settle for ‘good enough’ over the long term.

Children in Darfur have grown up and continue to grow up with hard odds against them. The social fabric has suffered over many years of conflict and social services are performing at an absolute minimum.

"It is estimated that out of every 100,000 babies born, 335 mothers will die during pregnancy, delivery or soon after birth"

Schooling in East and South Darfur is a case in point.

Access remains a challenge. In South and East Darfur, only 68 per cent of primary-school age children are attending school. The average classroom has more boys than girls, as 74 per cent of boys attend, compared to 62 per cent of girls. According to statistics, only 39.5 per cent are attending basic education and 650,533 are out-of-school. The situation is even more serious in respect of secondary education which has an enrolment rate of 17 per cent, the lowest among all 18 states in Sudan.

The quality of education is an equally important challenge. Teacher training in these states only covers about 40 per cent of the teachers employed meaning that 60 per cent – or six of every ten teachers - are untrained and unqualified to perform the critical duty of teaching basic education. By basic education I do not refer simply to attaining literacy and numeracy, I am also referring to the critical charge of preparing young minds for a healthy, productive and tolerant life style; of developing skills and attributes that will truly prepare them for life.

Primary health services are another tale of deprivation in Darfur, especially for child and maternal health.

It is estimated that out of every 100,000 babies born, 335 mothers will die during pregnancy, delivery or soon after birth.  One of the major causes of these deaths is an acute shortage of trained health care providers to assist mothers during this critical period.  Only 12 out of 100 women deliver in a health facility and only half of these births are attended by skilled health care workers.

According to reports from the Ministry of Health, the two states combined require a total of 1,200 village midwives and 3,700 technical midwives; currently, less than half of these health cadres are in place.

To correct these situations, investments are needed, and they need to be based on sound data.

Less than a week ago, UNICEF assisted the Ministry of Health in launching a massive survey on child-related indicators for all of Sudan, an S3M survey which uses a simple spatial survey methodology. I will not go into technical details of this survey, but I do wish to flag that surveys like this are critical to inform expansion and targeting of social services to make sure that we help the Government of Sudan and the Darfur Regional Authority to invest where the need is greatest, in the most deprived communities.

Let me offer a few health-related examples from the S3M:

The highest proportion of global acute malnutrition (low weight for height) among children is found in North Darfur and some areas of South Darfur where the numbers of wasted children are above international emergency thresholds (15 per cent as defined by WHO), and across the region more than two-thirds of children are stunted ( low height for age).

In South Darfur, global acute malnutrition is highest in Tulus, Dmso and Mershing localities and in Yaseen locality in East Darfur.  Tulus recorded the highest rate of both global and severe acute malnutrition (wasting) from all the five Darfur states, at 40.4% and 22.9% respectively. Needless to say, these figures are alarming and speak of children in need of our urgent attention.

The point here is that we need to get beyond the tyranny of averages. We do need the big picture – the national and state averages - but even more importantly, we need the small picture, the detailed information of how children are faring and how social services are performing at locality and sub-locality levels. The S3M does just that and I am confident that this – and other deep-dive data sets - will serve us well going forward.

I cannot over-emphasize the need for investment; for continued and tailored investment; in critical social services. Let me also emphasize that the highest return on investment accrues when investing in primary level services; this is where we can help in building a stronger foundation for Sudan’s future. Finally, let me stress the crucial importance of data to inform such investments.

I reiterate my satisfaction that we are launching two key projects on health and education with the EU that focus on long-term investments in these critical social services. It is crucial that we make an effective continuum out of humanitarian and development funding. What matters to children and their families is that they have access to a continuum of quality, affordable care and services.

It is my sincere hope that others will follow suit and match this investment made by the EU to make sure that - eventually – all children in Darfur may begin to grow up healthy and well-educated to take on a positive role as responsible, productive citizens.

Thank you



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