The heavy fighting which continues in Sudan’s capital Khartoum and across the country is putting tens of thousands of pregnant women in danger, making it too perilous to venture outside their homes to seek urgent care in hospitals and clinics.
UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, estimates there are 219,000 pregnant women in Khartoum, including 24,000 women expected to give birth in the coming weeks. Violent clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have made it extremely difficult for women to seek essential antenatal care, safe delivery services, or postnatal care.
The conflict has not spared Sudan’s health care system: at least 20 hospitals have been forced to shut down in Khartoum because of the violence. A further 12 hospitals across the country are still operating but could soon close as they struggle with power and water cuts and a lack of staff.
Doctors, nurses and hospital staff are unable to travel to work and vital humanitarian aid is not getting through because of roadblocks and ongoing fighting, leaving medical facilities understaffed, overwhelmed, and running low on critical medical supplies.
If the violence does not stop, there is a danger that the health system will collapse and pregnant women and their unborn children will die.
UNFPA is also concerned about the 3.1 million women and girls who are facing increased risks of life-threatening gender-based violence as protection services are interrupted by the clashes.
UNFPA reminds all parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law: to protect all civilians, including the wounded and sick, health care workers and humanitarians, and ensure unrestricted access to health facilities and hospitals for those in need. Attacks on health care are a flagrant violation of international law and the right to health and must stop now.
UNFPA stands in solidarity with our fellow United Nations agencies and the wider humanitarian and development community, and deplores the deadly attacks on UN staff. We are extremely concerned about the safety of our staff in Khartoum and other affected areas, who are trapped inside their houses and are beginning to run out of water, food and critical medicines.
The current insecurity is making the delivery of humanitarian aid almost impossible and comes at the worst time for the people of Sudan as the country faces unprecedented needs.
Under extremely challenging circumstances, UNFPA continues to support partners on the ground to provide life-saving health care, distribute supplies for safe births and to manage obstetric emergencies through a network of midwives, while also trying to ensure the safety of its own staff, partners and their families. In response to increased gender-based violence risks, efforts are underway to train service providers to provide remote psychosocial support to affected women and girls.
UNFPA joins the UN Secretary-General in calling for the humanitarian pause to be respected so that people can access food, water, medicine and the healthcare they desperately need.