Sudan is one of the most dangerous places in the world for mothers, said the head of United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, in Sudan yesterday.
According to UNICEF in Sudan, 26,000 Sudanese women die each year from giving birth, in a population of over 40 million. The official compared this statistic to that of the entire Latin American and Caribbean region, home to 550 million people, where there are less than 10,000 maternal deaths per year.
The official, who described seeing 20 tanks but only one ambulance in one Sudanese town, said: “Sudan, more than ever, needs peace.”
UNICEF emphasized that there are concrete steps to prevent maternity-related deaths, including stopping bleeding in time, having health staff available, having health staff wash their hands, and having the woman in a place where she can receive proper care.
Sudanese children too, face daunting odds: 305,000 children under the age of five die every year from preventable causes.
These statistics, though shocking, are not surprising in the context of this year’s wave of violence throughout southern Sudan, where women and children have not only been subject to insecurity and displacement, but are often the main targets during attacks.
With a U.S. Sudan policy set down on paper, it is important that the benchmarks used to determine progress take a firm line towards those who direct or foment violence in either South Sudan or Darfur. It’s time that Sudanese women and children benefit from a true peace dividend.