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MSF in East Darfur: From emergency response to building up essential medical care for refugees and host communities

Since 2017, Sudan’s East Darfur state has hosted tens of thousands of refugees fleeing conflict in South Sudan. For the past five years, teams from Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have provided refugees and local communities with medical care. In June 2022, MSF hands over its medical activities to the Sudanese Ministry of Health.

When South Sudanese refugees first started arriving in East Darfur state in 2016, there was no permanent place for them to stay. Many refugees settled in the state capital, Ed Daein city and authorities established Kario refugee camp, one hour away.

MSF launched an emergency response in 2017 after acute watery diarrhea broke out in the camp. Our teams provided treatment, general healthcare and clean drinking water for the refugees.

As more people fled across the border from South Sudan, Kario camp grew in size, while MSF’s activities expanded to meet people’s needs.

MSF built a clinic in Kario camp, providing outpatient consultations and malnutrition treatment. Later, the clinic expanded further to include an inpatient paediatric ward; an inpatient therapeutic feeding centre for patients suffering from severe malnutrition with complications; and a vaccination centre to protect children against measles and other preventable childhood diseases.

MSF also added a maternity ward where women can give birth safely, and a reproductive health unit with a particular focus on consultations for pregnant women. MSF health promoters provided advice on health and hygiene, while MSF water and sanitation engineers constructed latrines and provided clean drinking water.

Today, MSF’s clinic serves the majority of the 36,000 or so South Sudanese refugees living in Kario camp as well as around 80,000 people from local communities, who account for more than half of all consultations.

Over the past five years, MSF medics have provided more than 300,000 outpatient consultations and admitted around 10,000 people for inpatient care. With the help of MSF midwives, nearly 5,000 babies have been born safely in the clinic, while some 50,000 children under 15 have been vaccinated against measles. In nearby villages, MSF has set up an ‘integrated community case management’ programme to screen children for malnutrition and treat people for uncomplicated forms of malaria and diarrhoea. MSF provides community volunteers with training and medications, while the volunteers provide the basic medical treatment.

“Our area used to suffer because of malaria, and now many people come here for treatment,” says community volunteer Mahmud Hammad. “The burden of malaria is partially solved in our area.”

Community members are also trained to run health promotion activities and provide other types of support.

“MSF is providing medication and treatment,” says local community leader Younis Farah Aldor, “while we have been supporting MSF by setting up tents during the rainy season, making sure the drinking water is accessible, and making sure the community is well informed about the services on offer.” Younis is also involved in health promotion activities, such as educating local people about hygiene and clean water and encouraging them to seek medical care when needed.

Patients who need further care are transferred to Kario clinic. “This service is very important for the people,” says Mahmud Hammad. “Previously, with no health facilities nearby, when you fell ill you would have to rent a car or find other transport to go to Kario and pay your own money to be treated. This programme has helped a lot with that.”

“Now we are handing these regular medical activities over to the Sudanese Ministry of Health, with whom we have worked closely over the past 5 years. Nevertheless, MSF is present in Sudan and stands ready to respond to any medical emergency that might occur in the country, including in East Darfur”, says MSF project coordinator Topher Mongeon.

Medical services will continue in the area thanks to the Sudanese health authorities and other national and international partners.

MSF is a medical humanitarian organisation whose actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of neutrality, independence and impartiality. Assistance is offered based on medical needs, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

MSF is working in Sudan since 1978 and today provides medical care in Khartoum, Gedaref, Blue Nile, Central Darfur, West Darfur, South Darfur and Kassala states, with emergency teams launching responses in other areas as needed.


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