UNHCR and WHO join hands to improve access to health for refugees in Sudan


South Sudanese refugees in Dinka Camp were vaccinated by the Sudanese Ministry of Health as part of the national vaccination plan.  © UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and WHO, the World Health Organization, signed a Letter of Understanding on 06 July 2022 to enhance health services for refugees and host communities in Sudan. Building on a 2020 Global Memorandum of Understanding, the agreement enacts the two agencies’ first national comprehensive partnership beyond emergency responses.

Sudan’s health system is buckling under several recurrent crises, with the current situation further exacerbating health and nutrition conditions for refugees and the communities which host them. Areas where refugees live often have limited health infrastructure and suffer shortages of medical personnel and supplies.

“We are glad to make official our continuing collaboration at a time when multiple emergencies and the ongoing economic crisis are undermining a fragile health system,” said Dr. Ni’ma Saeed Abid, WHO representative in Sudan. “The Sudanese health system will also benefit from the know-how and from our renewed joint efforts towards health for all,” Abid added.

The UN agencies will also strengthen their advocacy to Sudan’s government on key health issues affecting refugees, such as their full access to national health services.

“Health is a fundamental right for everyone. This agreement will help us support refugees access vital health services in the country,” said Axel Bisschop, UNHCR’s Representative in Sudan. “Increasing access to healthcare for forcibly displaced populations is one of the pledges Sudan made at the Global Refugee Forum in 2019. Therefore, this agreement is a good opportunity for UNHCR to continue its support to Sudan in meeting their commitments,” Bisschop added.

Among the main joint achievements in 2022, UNHCR and WHO supported early warning systems to detect potential disease outbreaks in a timely manner, in order to effect swift action and avoid further spread. The agencies continue to provide medicines and medical supplies to primary health facilities in refugee locations across the country, with about 32 such facilities also accessible by local populations.

The new partnership defines UNHCR and WHO roles and strategic areas of collaboration, maximizing coordination — including with national authorities — and optimising resources when responding to refugee influxes and other emergencies affecting both refugees and Sudanese.

Sudan hosts one of the largest refugee populations in Africa. As of 31 May 2022, over 1.1 million refugees are hosted in the country, mainly from South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and the Central African Republic.

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