Sudan: Local humanitarian capacity crucial

2 Jul 2013

2013, Kassala State, Sudan: Fatima is a volunteer midwife at a medical center in Hammeida, in rural Kassala State. Local organizations are shouldering much of the humanitarian burden in eastern Sudan but are hindered by limited resources and support. Credit: OCHA
In eastern Sudan, local organizations are shouldering much of the humanitarian burden but are hindered by limited resources and support.

“I trained as a midwife to help my community,” says Fatima, a volunteer community health worker at a clinic in Hammeida, rural Kassala state in eastern Sudan. Fatima’s clinic is run by Talaweit, a Sudanese NGO. The clinic is the only primary health care facility for many miles.

Life is difficult in east Sudan. Land mines left over from the conflict that ended seven years ago mean some areas are still unsafe to farm. Many people lost land and livestock during the fighting, and this, combined with recurrent drought, makes it a challenge for families to make a living from the land.

The region has the highest malnutrition rates in the country. In Red Sea State, 28 per cent of people are considered malnourished, and this figure climbs above 40 per cent in some areas. A malnutrition rate of 15 per cent is the threshold for a critical situation.

Eastern Sudan is the location of one of the most protracted refugee crises in the world, placing further pressure on limited resources. There are more than 85,000 refugees in the region.  Many are Eritreans who left to escape their country’s strict national service requirements.  Others are from Ethiopia, Somalia, and Chad.

To further complicate matters, in 2012 the Sudanese Government instructed some international NGOs to terminate eight projects in eastern Sudan as it had concerns about them and did not view them as good value for money. This saw the region’s considerable humanitarian needs fall on the shoulders of local NGOs like Talaweit.

OCHA provides funds and connections

The OCHA-managed Sudan Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) is providing resources and advice to national organizations in eastern Sudan.

The CHF is a pooled fund supported by donors including the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, Australia and Ireland. It provides early and predictable funding so that the humanitarian community can address needs on the ground as they arise. Since the start of this year, approximately USD $4 million has been allocated to support projects in eastern Sudan.

In June, an OCHA-led team travelled to Kassala, to meet with local organizations to better understand their needs and challenges. For Talaweit, one of the primary challenges lies in getting local communities to engage with them.

“It’s difficult to get the community involved in identifying what they need,” explains Hussein Salih, Talaweit’s General Manager.

Volunteer Fatima echoes this sentiment. “It’s not easy to encourage women to attend my antenatal trainings.”

In response, OCHA put the Talaweit team in touch with AORD, another Sudanese NGO that works throughout the country and has experience in engaging with communities.

“By connecting new organizations with more experienced organizations who are successfully implementing community-based approaches, we are trying to transfer capacity and skills across organizations,” says Alta Haggarty, Chief of the CHF in Sudan.

“Talaweit is really a model organization to us as they are so proactive in identifying challenges and about asking for help. They are doing great work and we are eager to support them,” adds Gamal Gumaa, a member of the monitoring team and focal point for National NGOs at the fund.

Critical funding gaps remain

Even with strengthened capacity and funding support from the CHF, significant funding gaps remain in the region. Humanitarian organizations in east Sudan have only received 27 per cent of the funds they need for 2013. This makes the funding gap here even greater than that for Sudan overall, where 38 per cent of funding needs were received in the first six months of 2013.