Resilience, amid the Sudan crisis
How investments in immunization cold chain are paying dividends today
Armed violence has engulfed Sudan, leading to a near total breakdown of health systems in conflict hotspots with about 31 per cent of hospitals not functioning. The impact on the health system has been devastating and 11 million people are now in need of health services.
Amid this horrific situation for children and families in Sudan, UNICEF is staying and delivering with a strong focus on maintaining critical and lifesaving services for children and vulnerable, while preserving to the extent possible community resilience and social cohesion.
Sustaining community and primary healthcare services, including immunization services, are a clear demonstration of UNICEF’s commitment to this, and critical investments made prior to the conflict in system strengthening are paying dividends today, for the children of Sudan.
It is enabling UNICEF and partners to maintain immunization services across 12 states by securing vaccine supplies and distribution, as well as securing and monitoring the cold chain system, and supporting service delivery at primary health care facilities.
How cold chain facilities are supporting the nation-wide supply of vaccines
Just one month before the conflict started, we met Suleiman Mohammed Seiad who manages the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) at the then-newly inaugurated Kassala Cold chain facility. Opened in January 2022 with support from the German Cooperation/KfW, the cold chain facility more than doubled the vaccine storage capacity – for routine immunization and supplementary immunization – for Kassala state.
Suleiman worked long days, leading the critical team that ensured stocks of vaccines are available to support routine immunizations across Kassala state. Then, conflict broke out.
Today, Suleiman and his team remain in Kassala, leading the immunization response at the cold chain facility to ensure children are protected from vaccine preventable diseases, and outbreaks are kept at bay. They are ensuring routine immunizations continue including those of children, not only for the population of Kassala state through a network of 93 EPI fixed sites, 145 outreach sites and 18 mobile vaccination teams but also for the increasing number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) that are seeking refuge in Sudan’s eastern states.
On May 27, the UNICEF Emergency Response Team visited the Kassala cold chain facility as part of routine monitoring where the EPI team, led by Sulemain displayed the current, well-functioning cold chain system.
Suleiman Mohammed Seiad- “The cold chain building came at the right time. Now, I can continue to serve people – including those escaping the conflict. I’m proud that I can continue my work here”.
In Gedaref state, the large and new cold chain facility also constructed with support from the German Cooperation/KfW completed before the conflict is up and running. UNICEF and health partners have distributed vital vaccines to this facility to support continuity of immunization programmes in the state and neighbouring areas.
The cold chain facilities have become critical to the crisis response and currently re-packing stops for vaccines enroute from Port Sudan to the Darfurs, Kordofans, Niles and northern states. Together, the facilities are serving existing populations of and the approximately 43,000 Internally Displaced People (IOM DTM, May 30) who have arrived in Kassala and Gedaref states.
As the conflict in Khartoum continues, it is projected that the two facilities will function as a back-up supply hub to the national vaccine stock, from the Khartoum central cold chain.
“Investments in the cold chain have proven critical to maintaining immunization across 12 states and shoring up resilience when crisis erupts to ensure uninterrupted immunization supply chain in Sudan. Without these infrastructures, our ability to respond effectively would be greatly compromised,” Tedla Damte, Chief of Health and Nutrition, stressed.
Support UNICEF to reach 11.9 million people of in need of which 9.4 million are children, with life-saving assistance in health, nutrition, WASH, child protection, learning, and psycho-social support, while building resilience and maintaining critical services for the most vulnerable already in need before the conflict. For more details, please see the revised UNICEF 2023 Humanitarian Appeal for Children.