Cash crunch clos­ing WHO clin­ics in Su­dan war zones

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Khar­toum

Dozens of health fa­cil­i­ties sup­ported by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion in strife­torn ar­eas of Su­dan risk clo­sure due to a lack of funds, ex­pos­ing one mil­lion peo­ple to likely epi­demics.

Eleven clin­ics have al­ready been shut in Dar­fur, Blue Nile and South Kord­o­fan, where years of fight­ing be­tween gov­ern­ment troops and black African rebels has forced tens of thou­sands of peo­ple to flee their homes.

As an acute cash crunch wors­ens and with the world’s eyes fo­cused on other con­flicts such as Syria, an­other 49 fa­cil­i­ties in these re­gions are also at risk, the WHO head in Su­dan, said Naeema al-Gasseer.

“We don’t have enough funds to con­tinue sup­port­ing clin­ics in re­mote ar­eas that pro­vide peo­ple with health ser­vices,” Gasseer said.

“About 11 clin­ics have al­ready been closed and an­other 49 are fac­ing clo­sure.

“We are talk­ing about a mil­lion peo­ple who could be af­fected.”

The clo­sures could im­pact im­mu­niza­tion ser­vices, while some 323,000 women of child­bear­ing age and chil­dren un­der five will lack ac­cess to health­care, she said.

“A height­ened risk of epi­demics is likely ... with peo­ple hav­ing to travel long dis­tances to ac­cess avail­able health­care ser­vices,” Gasseer said. WHO, a United Na­tions agency, needs about $7 mil­lion to op­er­ate these clin­ics over the next year, but is hav­ing trou­ble sourc­ing the funds.

More than half of these fa­cil­i­ties are in Dar­fur, a re­gion the size of France where heavy fight­ing erupted in 2003.

Vi­o­lence broke out when eth­nic mi­nor­ity rebels rose up against Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir, ac­cus­ing his Arab­dom­i­nated gov­ern­ment of marginal­iz­ing the re­gion.

Sim­i­lar fight­ing has also plagued Blue Nile and South Kord­o­fan, with tens of thou­sands of peo­ple killed or dis­placed in these three ar­eas in more than a decade.

Fund­ing for Su­dan’s health­care sec­tor has fallen in the past two or three years.

The cash crunch faced by WHO and other NGOs is so se­vere that many clin­ics have no money even to buy medicines or to pay staff wages.

“Su­dan is like a for­got­ten emer­gency,” said Adil al-Mahi from Save the Chil­dren Swe­den, which op­er­ates health fa­cil­i­ties for chil­dren in the con­flict zones.

“We don’t have funds ... to main­tain the equip­ment or for food for mal­nour­ished chil­dren.”

Save the Chil­dren Swe­den is phas­ing out health and nu­tri­tion ser­vices in 20 cen­ters in South Kord­o­fan, af­fect­ing about 200,000 peo­ple who it has sup­ported.

UN of­fi­cials in­sist Su­dan still re­mains a pri­or­ity for global donors.

The UN had launched a global ap­peal to raise rais­ing $952 mil­lion to fund hu­mani- tar­ian needs in Su­dan in 2016. About 55 per­cent of that has been raised, which UN of­fi­cials say is sig­nif­i­cant con­sid­er­ing that donors had to meet other mas­sive aid needs in Syria, Iraq, Ye­men and Afghanistan.

UN of­fi­cials had es­ti­mated $66 mil­lion as the re­quire­ment for Su­dan’s health­care sec­tor in 2016, but have re­ceived only $28 mil­lion.

UN of­fi­cials are now look­ing for funds from in­side Su­dan even as the coun­try’s econ­omy re­mains bat­tered by decades of trade sanc­tions im­posed by Wash­ing­ton.

“We can­not rely on for­eign fund­ing,” said UNICEF’s head in Su­dan, Ab­dul­lah Fadil.

Naeema al-Gasseer

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