As the conflict in Sudan enters its third month, UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, appeals for $106.7 million to provide lifesaving reproductive health and protection services to women and girls in Sudan and neighbouring countries
Since violence erupted in April, almost 70 percent of health facilities in areas affected by fighting in Sudan have been forced to close, leaving women with little access to contraception or maternal health care. This includes the estimated 1.12 million women across the country who are currently pregnant.
Protection services have also broken down just as the crisis has put more women and girls – more than 4 million – at risk of gender-based violence. There are mounting reports of women and girls being raped and sexually abused in their homes and as they seek safety inside and outside Sudan. Many displaced women and girls are forced to sleep out in the open or in makeshift shelters with little to no protection, and no access to food or water, putting them at greater risk of violence.
“The conflict in Sudan is a tragedy that is crushing the rights and dignity of millions of women and girls across the region,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “UNFPA calls on the international community to step up its support for reproductive health and gender-based violence protection services, which are central to the humanitarian response.”
Amid growing needs, there are critical shortages of supplies for the clinical management of rape and obstetric emergencies as stocks remain inaccessible in warehouses in Khartoum, South and West Darfur. Health facilities in several states have warned that they are facing stock outs of these medicines.
UNFPA’s appeal for Sudan of $90.5 million is currently only 6 percent funded, while humanitarian response plans in neighbouring countries are similarly under-resourced. These funding gaps are hampering UNFPA’s response to critical needs, and more resources are urgently required to expand reproductive and protection services, deploy more midwives and counsellors and procure lifesaving supplies and medical equipment.
Women and girls who have fled into neighbouring countries are faring no better. Many of the countries hosting the wave of new arrivals – Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Ethiopia and South Sudan – are grappling with their own crises. Border areas are remote and lack infrastructure, and existing services are stretched to the limits. In Chad, for instance, Sudanese women asylum seekers have been giving birth outside without shelter, assistance or supplies for themselves or their newborns.
Despite the challenges, UNFPA is supporting existing health services and safe spaces in Sudan and neighbouring countries – Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan – with essential reproductive health and hygiene supplies; and additional staff, including midwives, counsellors and case workers.
UNFPA’s Representative in Sudan, Mohamed Lemine said: “Every day our partners are braving great danger to turn up to help women and girls in need. Today we must commit to fully funding our response so these unsung heroes can continue to save lives and bring hope to people in Sudan.”