Sudan in Crisis
There’s an old proverb in Sudan, originating from the Bedouins – “I, against my brothers. I and my brother against my cousin. I and my brother and my cousins against the world.” While this proverb has played out repeatedly in tragic conflicts, there’s one thing that no armed union can fight: disease.
The Center for Disease Control lists seven top diseases in Sudan. Tellingly, in a land without easy access to preventative care – it’s estimated that only 51.8% of the population has access to it – clean water, or nutritious food, the list starts with “infectious disease”. Closely following is yellow fever, malaria, nodding syndrome, HIV/AIDS, polio, and rabies. These diseases, while virtually unknown in the Western world, ravage Sudan.
These diseases include cholera, dengue fever, Rift Valley fever, meningococcal virus, and guinea worm. It’s estimated that 30% of the deaths in Sudan are from communicable disease.
Yellow fever pervades the entire country of Sudan, with the last outbreak officially declared in November 2018. It’s spread through contaminated mosquitoes, and is a hemorrhagic illness; in other words, it causes massive bleeding from every orifice. Sudan is classified as a “high-risk” country by the World Health Organization.
Malaria is also transmitted through contaminated mosquitoes. In a study published in 2007, researchers found that almost 44,000 deaths were attributable to malaria, with 9 million cases total.
- Nodding syndrome
Primarily found in South Sudan, Nodding syndrome is a neurological condition which causes spastic nodding of the head and staring spells, during which the victim is unresponsive to stimuli. It’s believed to be spread through an unknown river parasite.
Data is limited, but it’s believed that 150,000 – 200,000 people in South Sudan are living with HIV/AIDS – roughly 3% of the population. That number may be underreported, as means of prevention are not commonly taught.
The most recent case, reported August 2020, was derived from a polio vaccine. Previous cases were reported in the states of Darfur and Elgedarif. While polio is becoming less common, Sudan is still classified as “infected” and the World Health Organization recommends all travelers be vaccinated.
Commonly transmitted through dogs and transmitted to humans through bites, rabies caused 204 deaths in 2019. It also caused the large-scale loss of livestock, causing major economic harm.
These diseases have shaped the environment of Sudan, and will likely do so for years to come without large-scale vaccination and prevention education efforts. They impact quality of life, access to education, and cause higher mortality rates. If Sudan is to thrive, it is imperative to address these diseases.