By Violet Ikong

A volunteer with some children outside an IDP camp in Sudan

Nine months have passed since violence erupted in Sudan. The conflict so far has claimed over 12,000 lives and has displaced millions of people who are now living on the edge, either within or outside Sudan. With no end in sight, fear, hunger, and illness plague the population. At a time like this, healthcare is an essential need. Yet the medical system in Sudan is broken.

“It’s a disaster. Hospitals are down. The few ones that are still functional have limited staff and resources. It’s also difficult to import drugs, medical supplies, and machines into the country due to the conflict,” said Maram Saeed, a layperson working with the U.S.-based nonprofit Sudanese American Physicians Association (SAPA).

Before the conflict between the Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support Forces began in April 2023, the country’s healthcare system was already in a poor state. The crisis has made it much worse, with 70% of hospitals in the country no longer functional as of November. “Prior to the conflict, the healthcare sector was already in a bad state. There were challenges providing quality healthcare to people in the country, because of recurring issues like extreme tribal conflicts and political instability,” Anmar Homeida, a medical doctor with SAPA, told Amjambo.

In June, the United Nations reported that 11 million people in Sudan were in need of urgent healthcare. Humanitarian organizations are trying to provide healthcare assistance, but funding is inadequate, and conditions are challenging.

Founded in 2019, SAPA  escalated the level of its work in Sudan on April 20, five days after the conflict broke out, and has been helping to meet the health needs of internally displaced persons in Sudan ever since. SAPA’s network includes over 50 medical doctors and over 200 laypeople who are working in places like Darfur, Khartoum, White Nile, Al Jazirah or Gezira, and Sudan’s Northern State. They are also working with refugees who have fled the country to neighboring Chad.

Among its accomplishments, SAPA has provided 200 bathrooms, water, food, and mobile health clinics at least five days a week to displaced people. The clinics offer counseling to those traumatized by the conflict, health checkups, and dispense drugs and medications. SAPA has also opened a hospital in Al Jazirah state to attend to people with conditions beyond those able to be handled by the mobile clinics. According to Saeed, over 200 patients visit the hospital on their own every month. Others are referred from the clinics. The hospital offers free services in general surgery, gynecology, obstetrics, pediatric surgery, psychiatry, orthopedics, and dermatology.

Doctors attending to a patient
Volunteers with displaced people at an IDP camp

Besides meeting the health needs of people in Sudan, SAPA’s intervention has helped to create jobs for people; everyone, including laypeople, receive financial support from the organization. “We earn money working and can take care of our families. We’ve lost almost everything, so having a job in times like this is important,” Saeed said.

No one knows when fighting will end in Sudan, but Saeed is sure that whenever that is, the country will need the support of Africa and the world to rebuild.

“We need support especially from African countries. We need to work together and help each other after the war. They need to help us rebuild. We have lost a lot to this conflict. Seven months without children going to school, without living our normal lives, without our economy functioning properly. It’s a disaster,” said an emotional Saeed.