Birth Crisis: Sudan Birthing Options during the Violent Clashes of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF)

Written By: Jess Kimball

People all around the world face barriers to accessing basic reproductive healthcare and safe places to labor and birth. In Sudan, fighting between the Sudanese Army and the paramilitary group, Rapid Forces has been ongoing since April 15th. Thousands of people have been displaced as a result. Violent clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have made it extremely difficult for women to seek essential prenatal care, safe delivery services, or postnatal care.

Today there are only two functioning maternity wards left in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Across the entirety of Sudan, there are twelve operating hospitals remaining, but they are struggling with electricity and water cuts and a staff shortage. Twenty hospitals have been shut down since April of this year. There are currently 219,000 pregnant women, 24,000 of which need to deliver within the next three months. These individuals will be delivering without proper access to healthcare facilities, clean water, electricity, and some kind of transport.

In addition to the concern about birthing people in Sudan, there is a concern for girls of all ages. There are 3.1 million women and girls who are facing increased risks of life-threatening gender-based violence due to the lack of protection services. 

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the major causes of maternal mortality are severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, anemia, complications from delivery, and unsafe abortions. Lack of quality healthcare and clean water puts Sudan families at a higher risk of infection and complications. Prior to the current fighting in Sudan, there was already a high maternal mortality rate of 295 deaths per 100,00 live births according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Sudan ranks 31st for maternal mortality worldwide on a list of 186 countries. 

The United Nations describes these attacks on healthcare as a “flagrant violation of international law and the right to health” (UN 2023). We cannot allow the conditions in Sudan to continue. Increasing financial support to Sudan will increase medical supplies and providers, leading to safer birthing outcomes for people delivering in these unhealthy, violent conditions. 

The UNFPA is actively working to bring resources to displaced pregnant people in Sudan. UNFPA aims to improve women’s health and quality of life through the availability and quality of reproductive health services. Contributing financially can bring access to medical resources and providers for pregnant people in Sudan. The United Nations (UN) and UNFPA stand in solidarity with one another. Both organizations are actively working to provide women and girls in Sudan with resources. The UN has reported that efforts are underway to train service providers to provide remote psychosocial support to affected women and girls. Additionally, Women Relief Aid is a women-led national non-governmental organization that provides immediate support to children and women in the war zone of Sudan and South Sudan. They offer COVID-19 programs, HIV and AIDs programs, a nutrition program, and more to vulnerable women in Sudan.

At Global Foundation for Girls (GFG), we are active thought partners, serving global communities of birthing persons in order to advance and support the advocacy movement. Our initiatives currently span over five countries, but we hope to increase these by offering support in Sudan. Organizations in Sudan have reached out to GFG for support. Making a donation today will allow GFG to begin supporting work in Sudan.

Jess Kimball, AS, CLC, CD, PCD, PMH-C