Sudan: UNFPA Prescribes a New Lease on Health and Life for Kalma’s Mothers and Newborns

22 July 2005
Author: UNFPA

DARFUR, Sudan—With a faint voice and half-closed eyes, Hajja was able to briefly tell her story. Five months ago, when she was four months pregnant, she fled her village to seek refuge and security from the conflict that has shattered so many lives. She, her seven children and her husband walked 55 kilometres in the desert heat until they reached the Kalma camp, the place they call home today. They left behind a home and a small farm.

The camp at Kalma, home to over 200,000 internally displaced persons, is the largest in Darfur. Its women’s clinic is run by the Medecins du Monde and supported by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. There, Hajja and her unborn child were able to receive medical care and attention. A beautiful and healthy baby girl named Hope was born on 10 May.

On a single bed in the delivery unit, lay 30-year-old Hajja, with Hope next to her. By their side sat two of Haija’s sons watching over their mother and newborn sister. Now mother and daughter will be receiving the post-natal care that is so important to their future health.

The Kalma women‘s clinic medical team consists of two doctors, four medical assistants and two midwives. On average, each of the doctors treats 60 women per day; each medical assistant attends to 55 women daily; the family planning unit receives 75 women per day, and the two midwives deliver four to five babies a day.

In developing countries, pregnancy and childbirth are always risky – one woman dies every minute from pregnancy-related causes. In crisis areas, precarious conditions multiply that risk:

  • Premature deliveries, miscarriages brought on by trauma, and unsafe abortions resulting from unwanted pregnancies are all linked to crisis situations – and all require medical treatment.
  • Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death and disability for women aged 15 to 49 in most developing countries. Pregnant women must be a priority from the moment a crisis begins.
  • Only 53 per cent of deliveries in developing countries take place with a skilled midwife, yet the assistance of health professionals at delivery significantly reduces death, illness and disability. Emergency conditions mean even less access to trained assistance.
  • Women in least developed countries are more than a hundred times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than women in developed countries.

Humanitarian support for reproductive health and prompt treatment could save most of the half million women’s lives lost to pregnancy and childbirth complications each year. UNFPA-supported safe motherhood interventions in Darfur aim to reduce the high numbers of maternal deaths and illnesses.

Dr. Suman Shanshoeva, Emergency Intervention Programme Coordinator and head of UNFPA’s Mission in Darfur, pointed out that since 2004, dozens of sets of medical equipment and thousands of family planning, delivery and rape kits have been distributed to all camp clinics and hospitals in the greater Darfur area. Over 1,800 health providers, relief and community workers have been trained in reproductive health services, such as:

  • Antenatal care, skilled attendance at delivery and post-natal care
  • Management of obstetric and neonatal complications and emergencies
  • Prevention and treatment of reproductive tract and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV
  • Early diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer and reproductive tract cancers (men and women)
  • Promotion, education and support for exclusive breast feeding
  • Prevention and appropriate treatment of sub-fertility and infertility
  • Active discouragement of harmful practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting
  • Adolescent sexual and reproductive health
  • Prevention and management of gender-based violence
  • Family planning/birth spacing services

More than 2,200 reproductive health staff working for the Ministry of Health and implementing Partners received technical training and support. UNFPA has been supplying hundreds kits to test for sexually transmitted infections, advocating for better health policies that protect women’s rights, and supporting the Ministry of Health in the development of emergency assistance manuals and guidelines. Training sessions on gender-based violence and cultural sensitization are ongoing. Dr. Shanshoeva added, “To meet the increasing high demands of emergency requests and ensure quality interventions, UNFPA doubled its technical and professional human resources, and increased by a third its support staff on the ground in Darfur.” However, with over 2.3 million internally displaced persons in all three Darfur states, and in view of the present security situation, UNFPA as well as other United Nations agencies and implementing partners are doing their best to secure health and humanitarian services to the largest numbers of IDPs.

Contact Information:

Henrietta Aswad, tel: +9626 5517040 ext 32; e-mail:

the Sudan
Population : 43.8 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 32%
Girls 31%

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