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MSF supporting the measles vaccination campaign by the Ministry of Health in the Um Sangour camp, White Nile state, Sudan

Overwhelming needs in White Nile as conflict pushes people to limit

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Aisha is a health promoter with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), working in three camps in the White Nile region of Sudan. Also displaced by the conflict, Aisha reflects on supporting women and children living in destitute conditions and the importance of teamwork to get through each day.

I can’t find the right words to describe the conditions people are living in. I’ve witnessed women giving birth and caring for their newborns in overcrowded and overheated tents, without access to clean water or proper sanitation. 

I’ve been here before, back in 2020, and even then, the White Nile refugee camps were already struggling to meet the basic needs of people. Now, five months into the conflict, with nearly half a million refugees and people who have been displaced living across 10 camps in the White Nile, the situation has reached a critical point. People have lost their jobs and livelihoods, and what’s worse is no one knows when this situation will end. 

As a health promoter, my job is to provide health education, identify the social aspect of people’s needs, and most importantly, engage with the community by listening to people’s stories. I want to share one of those stories with you.

I’ve witnessed women giving birth and caring for their newborns in overcrowded and overheated tents, without access to clean water or proper sanitation. Aisha, MSF health promoter in White Nile

In the Alagaya camp, the second largest refugee camp in the White Nile state, I met a mother of three who had fled the conflict in Khartoum. Her youngest child was suffering from malnutrition, and it was clear to the doctors that we would need to refer the child to a hospital outside the camp for proper treatment. However, it’s common for mothers to be reluctant to leave their families and children to make the trip, and she was no exception. 

I spent hours talking to her, explaining the benefits of taking her child to the hospital, assuring her that we would provide transportation and medication. She hesitated because she didn't want to leave her other two children in the camp. Once we assured her that she would be able to travel with all her children, she eventually agreed, and went to gather her belongings. 

Upon her return, to my surprise, not only one but all her children were sick. I asked her why she hadn’t informed us about the state of the other two children, and it turned out she thought we wouldn’t provide care for all of them. Eventually, we managed to arrange referrals to the hospital for all her children. 

I, too, have been displaced by the conflict, and I understand the struggles of the community on a personal level. Balancing my role as a health promoter with my own experiences can be challenging. I listen to the stories of the people here, and I'm reminded that everyone has their personal experience.
Despite the volume of work, we are committed to providing humanitarian assistance in the camps, it’s not easy and the needs are huge. But I'm grateful to have a strong team by my side, and I appreciate the dynamic of the team in which I feel supported everyday.

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Project Update 26 March 2024