The First Outlines of a New Sudan Begin to Emerge
Eric Reeves | January 21, 2019
The New Arab (UK) has published an important plan for the future of Sudan’s medical community and health care for the people; a revolutionary change in the health for the people can be envisioned on the basis of this plan. See |
“Revolutionary ‘Sudanese NHS’ healthcare plan unveiled by protest-leading medics”
The New Arab, 21 January, 2019 (Karim Traboulsi)
Sudanese doctors have unveiled their vision for a reformed healthcare system if the protest movement removes President al-Bashir, as medics and other professionals emerged among the leading catalysts of the uprising. The Sudan’s Doctors Syndicate (SDS) published excerpts of their radical reform plan for the health sector in a post on their official Facebook page on Sunday, and unveiled the full document (Arabic) on Monday. The 11-page vision includes a three-phase plan covering the short, medium and long terms and assigns priorities for each phase. It covers all aspects of healthcare planning, including finding sources of funding a universal healthcare for all Sudanese citizens, gender-based healthcare and even modernising information systems to build a 21st century healthcare system.
Not shying away from politics, the introduction to the document says its aim is to “…to reassure the Sudanese people that a better tomorrow is possible, and that we are able to build a better future for our country and people after the end of this regime.” The plan even calls for diverting funds from the army to fund healthcare services.
“Doctors are widely aware of the terrible shortages of medicines and adequate health care for the vast majority of Sudanese…in a national budget informed by the priorities of medical personnel, spending on the military-security forces will be very substantially reduced, and commitments to health, education, and infrastructure will be greatly increased,” Eric Reeves, a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and Sudan expert, told The New Arab. “This would be one of the most important positive effects of regime change.” Sudanese medics have emerged as leading catalysts of the ongoing pro-democracy protest movement, playing a key role in organising and coordinating marches as well as tending to protesters.
With the healthcare plan, the healthcare workers have shows how they could shape the country’s future. The SDS say the dismal state of healthcare across Sudan has left many households spending up to 75 percent of their income on medical care. According to the WHO, “overall health indicators in Sudan are comparable to Sub-Saharan Africa averages” despite some improvements in recent years.
The SDS forms part of the Sudanese Professionals Associations (SPA), a grouping of doctors, lawyers, pharmacists and other professionals playing a major role in leading the protests.
The Sudanese protests began on December 19th in the north-eastern town of Atbara, triggered by the government’s decision to increase the price of bread by about three times. They quickly spread to the capital and other major cities, with protests reported in Darfur, a bastion of support for the government. The have since become more organised as urban professionals joined the movement calling for the depature of President Bashir as the first step for solving the country’s profound socio-economic problems.
They come with Sudan suffering from an economic crisis driven by an acute shortage of foreign currency and soaring inflation that has more than doubled the price of food and medicine.
The protests have emerged as the biggest challenge yet to the authority of President Bashir, who swept to power in 1989 in an Islamist-backed coup. Riot police and Sudan’s feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) have led a sweeping crackdown on the protest movement that has seen several opposition leaders, activists, journalists and protesters jailed since the demonstrations erupted.
Dozens have also been killed, including a doctor on Thursday. On Friday, the BBC published a letter from the SDS saying the killing of the doctor has left doctors feeling they have now become a target for the authorities. “Doctors have been specifically targeted by the al-Bashir regime’s security forces because they are assisting protesters, demonstrators who have been wounded or injured,” Reeves said. “Their professional duties have made them political/security targets. The invasion of Omdurman hospital last week was a clear sign that medical personnel and hospital patients are targets if they are in any way perceived as working in concert with the demonstrations.”
The government’s tough response has sparked international criticism, with Amnesty International accusing the security forces of using violence against protesters. The protests are ongoing. In a statement released on Sunday night, the SPA said that the security forces fired live bullets to disperse protesters in the city of Omdurman. The SPA called for evening protests in a number of towns on Tuesday and large protests the whole country on Thursday.