Years of brutal civil war, famine, drought and desertification have ravaged Sudan, the largest country in Africa. Sudan's 38.6 million inhabitants include more than 600 ethnic groups and sub-groups.
Civil war has resulted in almost four million internally displaced people and nearly half a million refugees. Efforts to establish peace and stability have been exhaustive after a 2004 ceasefire agreement between the Sudanese government and rebel groups, and an African Union peacekeeping mission in 2006 failed to take root.
Although rich in natural resources, ongoing political instability and poor economic management in Sudan have induced widespread poverty, and it is estimated that more than 90 percent of the population lives on less than $1 U.S. dollar a day.
Life in Sudan is difficult and dangerous: food and water are a challenge to procure, especially in the western region of Darfur, because of drought, famine, and ongoing conflict. Most Sudanese live in rural areas and rely on traditional agriculture or the growing oil export industry. Many women and men lack access to health care countrywide, contributing to the dangers associated with pregnancy and childbirth: the average woman in Sudan will have more than four births in her lifetime and face a one in 30 chance of dying from maternity-related causes.
Just half of the female population can read, although the number of women in Sudan attending schools and taking part in politics is on the rise.
It is estimated that health care is accessible to just 10 to 15 percent of women in Sudan's rural north, east, and west, and this lack of access has grave consequences. Only seven percent of married women report the use of modern contraceptives, putting them at risk for a high incidence of unintended pregnancy and HIV/AIDS infection.
Women in Sudan now account for the majority of HIV/AIDS-infected adults in the country. Restrictive abortion laws are enforced, in part, by cultural and religious stigma from both Muslim and Christian factions of society, meaning many women must find clandestine and often unsafe means of obtaining an abortion.
PPFA in Sudan
The work of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) in Sudan focuses on reducing the incidence of maternal death and disability due to unsafe abortion and delivery, and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS among this vulnerable population.
Since 1982, PPFA has worked in partnership with the Ministry of Health in Sudan and other governmental and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to increase the provision of and access to sexual and reproductive health education, information, and services. Past PPFA projects have served particularly vulnerable populations, such as factory workers, university students, and low-income communities.
For the past six years, PPFA has supported the HIV/AIDS and Reproductive Health Peer Education Project, which trains youth peer educators nationwide to provide crucial information about sexual and reproductive health to their peers in such venues as schools, health fairs, and sporting events. The project is overseen by PPFA partners Ahfad University for Women and the Sudanese Red Crescent Society, which together have developed an Arabic-language training manual that can be used by other organizations working with youth in Sudan.
Our newest project, started in July 2007, works to increase access to post-abortion/safe abortion care services in Khartoum, the country's capital. The project trains and equips health care workers to provide safe and comprehensive abortion services to women in Khartoum, including those in internally displaced people's camps.
Trained providers also work to raise awareness about unsafe abortion and conduct advocacy activities for the broader provision of safe abortion services within the limits of Sudanese law.