The rise of tropical diseases in Sudan: a result of its weak healthcare system

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Years of enormous government spending on Sudan’s extensive security forces prevented Sudan’s impoverished public health system from successfully diagnosing or treating patients.

The health system in the African nation has recently seen a rise in mosquito-borne illnesses including dengue fever and malaria, highlighting the vulnerability of the system and portending trouble for upcoming problems brought on by climate change.

The capital city of Khartoum is home to most of Sudan’s hospitals, making residents of remote districts dependent on charity initiatives. But many of them have vanished.

Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the top general in the Sudanese military, orchestrated a coup in October 2021 that scuttled the nation’s flimsy attempt to move to democracy.

As a result of the action, aid funding levels plummeted to less than 50% of the necessary levels for both 2021 and 2022, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In December, Burhan committed to appointing a new civilian administration along with his governing generals and several other political factions. However, political squabbling is preventing a final agreement, and it is still unknown whether or when donor financing will resume its old levels.

A young physician at a hospital in North Kordofan believed that the malaria outbreak she was witnessing was a new one in the late fall. Patients with high fevers, exhaustion, and headaches akin to migraines were admitted to her hospital with symptoms similar to malaria.

A concerning image, however, emerged after blood samples were sent for testing to a lab in Khartoum. Even though dengue fever has symptoms that are similar to malaria but is caused by a virus rather than a parasite, some of the patients have malaria. Organ failure and death are possible outcomes of dengue fever if it is severe and untreated.

Mouad Boudina

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