Sudan | Events | Sudan receives WHO’s Deputy Director-General on her first country visit

Sudan receives WHO’s Deputy Director-General on her first country visit

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"WHO is here to support Sudan in tackling its health challenges"

Dr. Swaminathan speaking with members of the South Sudanese refugee community at the Almanar Health Center in Mayo, Khartoum.Dr. Swaminathan speaking with members of the South Sudanese refugee community at the Almanar Health Center in Mayo, Khartoum (Photo: Simon van Woerden/WHO Sudan).

On February 6 and 7, WHO Deputy Director-General for Programmes (DDP), Dr. Soumya Swaminathan visited Sudan to witness the launch of the country’s new National Health Policy 2017-2030 (NHP), meet with representatives of Sudan’s health sector and the international community, and hear from health workers and the people served by WHO’s work.

On her first country visit since her appointment as DDP in October 2017, Dr. Swaminathan, a paediatrician and expert Tuberculosis researcher by trade, first addressed the dignitaries and representatives gathered at the NHP launch for hosting her. In her remarks, she drew attention to the various overlaps and intersections between the new policy and WHO's own 13th General Programme of Work, including on non-communicable diseases, which are responsible for about 40% of illness in Sudan, environmental health and related issues like climate change, safe water and sanitation for which other ministries' support is essential, and more. She also called attention to WHO’s new and ambitious “triple billion” goal: 1 billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage, 1 billion more people better protected from health emergencies, and 1 billion more people enjoying better health and well-being.

Dr. Swaminathan’s itinerary further included a long list of key meetings, health sector partners, facilities and locations, including Sudan’s Ministers for Health, Higher Education, and International Cooperation, the heads of UN agencies in Sudan, the Mycetoma Research Centre, the National Medicines Supply Fund, the Human Resources for Health Forum, and a field visit to the Almanar Health Center in Mayo community outside of Khartoum.

Dr. Swaminathan and Dr. Al Gasseer meeting with Sudan's Health Minister, Mr. Bahr Idris Abu Garda (Photo: Simon van Woerden/WHO Sudan).

The visit of Dr. Swaminathan coincided with the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), to which the DDP called attention in her various conversations and remarks. Although FGM is highly prevalent in Sudan (eighty-seven percent of women aged 15–49 years have been cut), due to efforts by WHO and its partners the practice is expected to become less and less frequent (read more in this new feature story).

On her last day, Dr. Swaminathan once more addressed Sudan’s Health Sector at the NHP launch ceremony, saying that "Sudan has significant challenges in providing health for all, including on data and operational research, access to services for poorest of the poor, preventive health care for noncommunicable diseases, vector control, and more. But we can confront them if we put our heads together. WHO is here to support."

WHO’s representative for Sudan, Dr. Naeema Al Gasseer, added: “The fact that Dr. Swaminathan chose Sudan for her first country visit is testament to the high priority that WHO as an organization gives to the health of the Sudanese people. With the new NHP launched, we will stand ready to provide our usual technical and other support, to achieve this ambitious vision by 2030, hand in hand with the Government of Sudan and all other health sector partners.”

Key health-related statistics

Total population (000s) 40 783
Total health expenditure (% of general government expenditure) 7.2
Maternal mortality ratio (per 100 000 live births) 311
Primary health care units and centres (per 10 000 population) 1.5
Total life expectancy at birth (years) 65.1

Source: Framework for health information systems and core indicators for monitoring health situation and health system performance, 2018

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