Sudan's underfunded healthcare worsens dengue fever spread

Saturday April 01 2023
Fever nosquito

A female mosquito which can transmit dengue fever whose symptoms include fever, muscle pain, nausea and rashes. PHOTO | ROGER ERITJA | BIOSPHOTO VIA AFP


Dengue fever has spread into Sudan's capital for the first time as the country tackles its widest ever outbreak of the disease exacerbated by an underfunded health system, officials say.

According to Sudan’s health ministry report released this week, at least 45 people have died out of at least 2,576 cases recorded since July last year in 12 of the country's 18 states.

Dengue fever symptoms include fever, muscle pain, nausea and rashes. However, it tends to be more severe and sometimes fatal on repeat infection, making its containment a long-term concern.


A female Aedes aegypti mosquito carries diseases such as dengue fever. PHOTO | REUTERS

"What we see in the health facilities is the severe cases of dengue, which means that what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg," Dr Nima Abed, World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Sudan said.

“Most people do not go to the doctor because the symptoms are not severe enough or they don't realize they have dengue fever,” he added.


Although dengue fever is endemic in Sudan, outbreaks were previously concentrated in peripheral provinces and had not spread through the country.

Strained health system

The outbreak comes at a time when Sudan's long underfunded health system is under particular strain. After a coup in 2021, most of Sudan's main backers withdrew development aid.

Read: Africa losing out for failing to own patents for drugs it makes

“With help from the UN and charities, the health ministry has been able to provide diagnostic tests, mosquito nets and care facilities to help counter dengue infections,” Sudan’s ministry official Dr Leila Hamadelnil said.

But Abed said such funds could run out.

"I cannot say it is sufficiently funded to contain the outbreak everywhere," Abed said, noting in particular the cost of funding health workers who have often gone on strike in Sudan.

Dengue fever is carried by a species of mosquito that thrives in domestic settings, laying eggs in pools of water in and around homes, making areas without running water particularly vulnerable and monitoring of breeding sites labour-intensive.