Amidst conflict in Sudan, these humanitarian workers stay and deliver
It has been four months of conflict in Sudan. Life has changed overnight for children and families. Homes destroyed, schools damaged, children killed and injured. Through this uncertainty of conflict, humanitarian workers continue to work for children in Sudan – comfort for a child displaced, critical vaccines given to a newborn, a space of support provided to those living through the trauma of fresh violence.
On World Humanitarian Day, we hear from humanitarian workers from Wad Madani, Sudan where thousands of people have sought refuge since fleeing violence in other parts of the country – and where UNICEF workers and partners have remained to deliver life-saving services for children and families. Their efforts have reached over 3 million children and women with health supplies, 2.1 million people with safe drinking water, and 2 million children screened for malnutrition.
Let’s put faces and names to some of these workers today.
Auatf Mater, Paediatric nurse
Good quality newborn care services during humanitarian situations are critical to reducing neonatal deaths. At the children's hospital in Wad Madani, the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is open and supporting the survival of preterm babies. “We are wired to work for the patients,” says paediatric nurse Auatf Mater. Despite the increased workload since the conflict started, Auatf remains committed to supporting the little ones in her care – something she has done for the past 27 years and vows to continue even during the crisis.
Faced with enormous challenges to get to work, including transportation from her remote home, Auatf is always at the hospital.
“There is great pressure on the unit, as the number of patients has increased. We do our best to maintain the service under very difficult circumstances. Recently there have not been enough workers, so we are working longer hours to fill the gap,” says Auatf.
She takes her time, providing medication, adjusting their feeding tubes, checking their intravenous lines, updating their records, adjusting oxygen masks, and ensuring they are comfortable. Auatf and her colleagues are there for the newborns all the time, they take turns to watch them in a room full of constantly beeping monitors.
Yosra Mohammed, UNICEF Nutrition Officer and nutritionist Asma Abdullah
Every day Asma Abdullah, Yosra Mohammed and a team of nutritionists monitor the nutritional status of children at the Wad Madani Children’s Hospital using MUAC tapes and weighing scales.
The team has registered a spike in the patient load since the conflict started. At the clinic, more and more mothers and caregivers are arriving with their children, and some need urgent support.
“Children are suffering the most. “They are wasting away due to lack or little to eat,” Asma shares.
Despite the increased workload, the team remains, serving tirelessly. "Conflict brings immense suffering to vulnerable children,. but we continue stand-up for them,” says Asma.
So far, 2 million children have been screened for malnutrition in Sudan since the conflict began, of which approximately 107,000 have received life-saving treatment thanks to work by humanitarian workers like Yosra and Asma.
Asma Hessen, vaccinator
Since 1989, Asma has specialised in vaccinating children under two years of age and pregnant mothers, something she is proud of. Now more than ever, her contribution is needed to protect the most vulnerable young children from vaccine-preventable diseases.
“My childhood dream was to become a doctor, but today I do what is most important to prevent diseases,” says Asma. Mothers with infants, some born during the recent conflict, flock the hospital for immunization services. Asma has and remains at her workstation to fulfil her dream.
“I take into account every child that comes for immunization. I hold the crying child in my arms until they stop crying.”
With the daily increase in mass displacements, the services provided by frontline health workers including vaccinators like Asma are important.
Nagla Mohamed, UNICEF Child Protection Officer and Khadiga Agab, UNICEF Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA)
Nagla Mohamed, UNICEF Child Protection Officer engages in a psychosocial support session with displaced children at a gathering point in Wad Madani. "I love my work and feel that I am a mother to all these lovely children,” she says. More than 200,000 children and caregivers are benefitting from psycho-social counselling, learning, and protection support amidst the conflict in the country.
Khadiga Agab, UNICEF Protection Specialist from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse orients displaced persons at a gathering point in Wad Madani on forms of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment; their driving factors; the community mechanisms available to prevent PSEA and GBV; how cases should be reported; correct evidence handling and storage and the provision of psychosocial support for survivors.
Over 400 safe spaces have been established by UNICEF and partners since the conflict started.