The challenges of our work during the Sudan crisis: Protecting mothers and babies in Khartoum
Farid Idris, our Country Director in Sudan, explains how our team, together with our local partner Shamaa and a network of community and religious leaders, are successfully working to provide services to single mothers and other vulnerable women in Khartoum.
For the last 30 years, Sudan has been ruled by a totalitarian regime that promotes fundamentalist Islam. The social stigma suffered by mothers who give birth outside marriage and their children means that around 100 new-born babies are abandoned on the streets and in the hospitals of the capital every month.
Since April 2019, Khartoum, the country’s capital, has been in the grip of unprecedented social and political unrest with mass protests, general strikes and sit-ins. The removal of president Bashir and the assumption of power by the Transitional Military Council increased tension leading eventually to the Khartoum massacre on 3 June in which the Rapid Support Forces and other security personnel killed at least 128 civilians.
Against this background, our EU-funded project ‘Development of a safe environment for single mothers, pregnant women & women who give birth outside wedlock & their children’ has assumed an even greater importance and our Hope and Homes for Children team, together with our local partner Shamaa and a network of community and religious leaders have worked to ensure that the Mother and Baby Unit is safe and protected and still able to provide services to single mothers and other vulnerable women.
“Since April 2019, Khartoum, the country’s capital, has been in the grip of unprecedented social and political unrest… [Despite this] the Mother and Baby Unit is safe and protected and still able to provide services to single mothers and other vulnerable women.”
From April to June, while the government social care system was paralysed, and many national and international NGO’s were forced to cease work and close their offices, the Mother and Baby Unit received an additional 13 single mothers, referred through community leaders and Shamaa’s outreach network. As well as accommodation, Shamaa provided them with psychological, health, and legal support. And on a day when the political situation in Khartoum had reached a dangerous stalemate, one of the young mothers was married to her partner in a joyful celebration attended by friends and family. Two more of the mothers are preparing to celebrate their weddings in the coming weeks.
The religious and community leaders who were trained by Hope and Homes for Children and Shamaa staff have continued to play a vital role in protecting and supporting these vulnerable young women through mediation with family and community and ensuring their partners are connected with them and fulfilling their obligations. In the absence of government leadership during these dangerous months the success of these grassroot networks in maintaining a protective environment for these single mothers is testimony to how far attitudes and behaviours have changed and that more of Sudan society’s most vulnerable women and their children can now look forward to the future with greater hope and confidenc
About the EU-funded Project
The EU-funded project, ‘Development of a safe environment for single mothers, pregnant women and women who give birth outside wedlock and their children’ started in April 2018. It will train and empower child protection professionals to respond to the needs of vulnerable women, set up new prevention and quality alternative care services and see the stigma and discrimination towards single mothers, pregnant women and women who give birth outside wedlock and orphans reduced.
Overall, the projects main objectives are to contribute to:
- the promotion of women’s rights, gender equality and empowerment of women in particular in terms of improvement of maternal health and reduction of maternal mortality rates; and
- the promotion of children’s rights in Sudan in particular in terms of reduction of child mortality, prevention of abandonment and institutionalization of children born out of wedlock.
As a direct and measurable effect of the project, 900 vulnerable women will benefit from family and community based service including outreach, prevention of separation, reunification services and in particular from the services provided through the new Mother and Baby Units that will be set up.
Working with Shamaa, our local partner organisation in Sudan, Hope and Homes for Children will use the new EU funds to roll out further community-based services to support vulnerable women and their babies and prevent abandonment and institutionalisation.
Our work in Sudan
Hope and Homes for Children started work in Sudan in 1998, helping displaced children in Khartoum to be cared for in a family environment. Since 2005 we have been supporting the Government of Sudan to develop and implement a system of family and community-based alternatives to institutional care across Sudan.
In 2015, we completed the closure of two orphanages in the states of Gazira and Red Sea, supporting the transition of 4,280 children into families, prevented 3,957 children from separation and institutionalisation, and trained 2,474 professionals. The closures represent a significant milestone for our team in Sudan—the first two states free of institutions and with effective programmes in place to strengthen families and offer alternative family and community-based care for separated children.
“In 2015, we completed the closure of two orphanages in the states of Gazira and Red Sea, supporting the transition of 4,280 children into families, prevented 3,957 children from separation”
In November 2016, Hope and Homes for Children, Shamaa, and ten other organisations representing seven countries across Africa, became founder members of Transform Alliance. The vision of Transform Alliance is that, one day, in an Africa free of institutional care, all children will belong and grow up in a safe and loving family. Its mission is to be the catalyst that will end institutional care of children in Africa by bringing together our collective voices, knowledge, practice and experience to strengthen families.
Find out about our EU-funded project in Sudan, and read more about how mEU funding is helping prevent baby abandonment through Sudan’s first official Mother and Baby Unit.