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Sudanese-American Physicians respond to Sudan crisis

Sudanese American Physicians Association (SAPA) responds to humanitarian needs of Sudan’s conflict


September 4, 2023

Health personnel at the Saudi hospital in Omdurman treat a newborn patient amidst Sudan's Conflict. (Credit: Omer Jay for SAPA)

“70 percent of hospitals and healthcare organizations are out of service in Sudan’s conflict zone – within Khartoum state and the Darfur areas. Across the conflict areas, there is a total of 89 hospitals and 62 are out of service completely. Some 19 hospitals were bombed or attacked by missiles,” says Mohamed Eisa, Secretary-General of the Sudanese American Physicians Association (SAPA), a 650-member strong non-profit founded in 2019.

Since the start of the April 15 power struggle in Sudan between two Sudanese generals–Abdel Fattah Burhan (head of the Sudanese military) and rival Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo (head of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces)–SAPA has supported the public health sector with staff incentives, and financial assistance to 2,437 healthcare professionals across Khartoum, Gezira, Port Sudan, South Darfur, and Kasala.

The U.N. Migration Agency reports nearly 700,000 Sudanese displaced, in addition to the 3.7 million existing IDPs. The power struggle, which continues to wage a bloody battle concentrated around the capital city of Khartoum and the Darfur region, is now a humanitarian crisis.

“Genocide is again underway in Darfur. Since 2003 it has never stopped. In the past months, over a thousand African Massalit have been murdered by the Arab ‘Rapid Support Forces,’ the renamed Janjaweed, still led by the murderous General Hemeti, who also controls much of Khartoum. Sudan needs a robust Chapter Seven UN Peacekeeping Force with a mandate to end the Sudanese civil war and Darfur genocide. The International Criminal Court should charge both General Hemeti and General Burhan with crimes against humanity and Genocide. The UN PKO should be mandated to arrest them and send them to the Hague for trial,” says Greg Stanton, Founding President of Genocide Watch. “The UN and its members must not get tired of preventing, stopping, and punishing genocide.”

Children, Women, and IDPs Caught in Sudan’s Conflict Zone

With three Interagency Emergency Health Kits (IEHK) delivered to Madani, Sudan’s second-largest city and the capital of the east-central Gezira state, SAPA plans another IEHK for Alnao Hospital and has ​​delivered two tons of medications and supplies to the hospital while awaiting the clearance of 40 tons of medical supplies now held off in Port Sudan.

SAPA has launched new healthcare facilities to lessen pressure on existing public health infrastructure. It provides dedicated healthcare support to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and food provisions for doctors’ residences in five states.

Before the recent conflict, SAPA supported healthcare projects in Sudan forging partnerships with other NGOs and human rights organizations in the U.S. and globally. Since the start of the April conflict, SAPA’s all-volunteer Board of Directors expanded services with support from 30,000 individual donors from over 30 countries.

“SAPA has started services in Gezira where our largest operations are. We now have over 50 full-time staff employees and incentivized volunteers or part-timers,” says Eisa, who is a gastroenterologist and hepatologist based in Pittsburg (USA), and just returned from a month-long work in Khartoum.

Another SAPA member, now in Madani, assists with projects including a fully equipped Operating Room in Madani Teaching Hospital, the largest public hospital in Gezira state providing surgical capacities and patient care. SAPA’s oxygen generation plant in Singa – the second largest city southeast of Khartoum – fills 2,000 oxygen cylinders each month for clinics across the state.

The plant, a collaboration with the state’s Minister of Health which provided half of the budget, eliminates long travel distances to obtain oxygen tanks and is a lifesaver during emergencies. The $132,000 investment has already impacted over one million people’s lives in the Sennar and Blue Nile states in East Sudan. In consultation with the Federal Ministry of Health, SAPA also determined that Darfur was in dire need of oxygen tanks since the area has been void of healthcare centers since the 1956 independence.

“Strengthening the local communities, and local civil movements is extremely beneficial for improved healthcare status in Sudan. Our work is not just with the top-level officials and medical unions, but also with the local communities,” Eisa says SAPA, in collaboration with the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), has shipped to Gezira, Sennar, and White Nile states $450,000 worth of medications covering the medical needs of 20,000 people for three months.

IMANA is one of the largest faith-based medical groups in the world and the largest Muslim medical organization in North America. SAPA also received $3.6 million worth of medication shipments from its partner organization, United Hand Relief.

With the widespread Hemorrhagic Fever across Sudan, SAPA’s $22,000 vector control project in the eastern Sudanese city of Kasala, provides treatment to over 30,000 households. With most of the capital city Khartoum residents fleeing into Madani, SAPA and the Faculty of Medicine at Gezira University set up the Madani IDP Health Clinic and 70 Mobile Clinics to meet the medical and healthcare needs of IDPs.

The mobile clinics, mobilized in Madani a few weeks after the April conflict. SAPA hired healthcare workers and volunteers to equip the clinics. Each mobile clinic has about 20 healthcare professionals who have served nearly 6,000 patients across 43 locations in Gezira State with reproductive health, and soon will offer vaccination programs. Additional mobile clinics are planned for Northern and White Nile States as well.

“We operated on an IDP who had colon cancer. With support from partners, we are also able to manage secondary care. For those who need tertiary care, we contact national specialized centers dedicated to tertiary care–from cardiac surgeries, transplants, and cancer,” Eisa says SAPA retrofitted a former contact isolation center as a secondary care hospital and will reopen the hospital with a dedicated monthly operating budget of $90,000.

Some 25 percent of the IDPs treated at SAPA mobile clinics are children, and between 25% to 40% are women, suffering from a range of ailments from simple colds to severe malnutrition among children, to malaria and other infectious diseases, and cancer. The mobile clinics travel through different IDP camps with the smaller minivans providing simple medical services, from measuring blood pressure to a gluco-meter while larger vans are equipped with laboratory equipment and a small pharmacy.

According to UNICEF, an estimated 82,000 Sudanese children have crossed into neighboring countries, while an additional 368,000 children are internally displaced.

In partnership with the Sudan Doctors Trade Union and other entities such as the Sudanese Pediatrics Consultants Society, SAPA ensures ongoing pediatric care in the conflict area.

“We haven’t been attacked so far luckily because Madani is sort of away from the conflict, there isn’t any sort of immediate danger. But we have mobilized activities and support a Saudi hospital, the only hospital that provides obstetrics and gynecology services in Omdurman city right now,” Eisa says SAPA provides salaries for the staff to continue their services and serve children in the conflict area.

Jackie Abramian is committed to amplifying the work of women peace-builders, change makers and social entrepreneurs. She is a social enterprise advisor and the founder of Global Cadence consultancy.

Copyright 2023 Jackie Abramian and EuroNewsweek


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