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It is difficult to obtain accurate statistics for Sudan, however figures from 2003 show that an average 110 newborn babies are abandoned in Sudan’s capital Khartoum every month. Half of them die as they don’t get medical assistance in time.
This is primarily due to poverty and the stigma of having children out of wedlock, accentuated by years of conflict prior to Sudan’s peace agreement in 2005 and the secession of South Sudan in 2011 which left millions of people dead or displaced and thousands of children at risk of abandonment.
In 1998, we offered the first formal family-based care for homeless children in Khartoum; many of them had lost their families. As we started tracing their families and planning their return home, we temporarily placed them with safe and loving foster carers in Family Type Homes. The success of this work, backed by our experience for closing institutions and finding alternative family-based solutions for vulnerable children in Central and Eastern Europe helped us work closely with the Sudanese Government, UNICEF and Médecins Sans Frontières. Together we started closing the infamous Maygoma Institution, the region’s largest institution for babies and the institution with the highest documented mortality rate. It was our greatest challenge to date.
We first improved the institution’s basic conditions and levels of care, developed better care solutions for the babies and worked with the community to tackle the stigma of having a baby out of wedlock. We worked with Government officials, religious leaders and communities to ensure that abandoned babies were immediately treated in hospitals and matched with emergency foster parents, rather than being abandoned in Maygoma. We then inspired communities in Khartoum to be long-term foster carers and to start adopting vulnerable children. The systems we put in place were officially adopted and approved in March 2011 in Sudan’s National Policy on caring for children deprived of parental care.
At the beginning of 2013 we expanded our work in the country and are now working with the Government to implement their national policy across nine separate states including White Nile and Gezira. This project will focus on preventing child abandonment and where possible we will replace institutional care with emergency and long-term family-based care, reuniting babies with their mothers and recruiting foster carers and potential adoptive parents. By providing social workers and police with better solutions for vulnerable children and removing the reliance on institutional care we aim to have a lasting impact on childcare across Sudan and neighbouring countries.
Bad things happen when children are reduced to numbers. Help us ensure one day all children have the love and protection of family.
What is Deinstitutionalisation? Why is it necessary? Find out more about our pioneering work to transform the lives of children.
We stop children being separated from their families in the first place by supporting families to get back on their feet.