“Acting on compassion” – a conversation with Abduelsamad Abdalla Ahmed, MedGlobal’s Sudan Program Manager
MedGlobal recently launched operations in Sudan. We asked Sam, MedGlobal’s Sudan Program Manager, to talk about how he approaches his work and why MedGlobal’s presence in Sudan is so critical.
Tell us about yourself – where are you from, what are some activities you enjoy and things that are important to you, and how did you come to work for MedGlobal?
My name is Abduelsamad Abdalla Ahmed and I was born in Nyala, in the west of Sudan.
Reading is an intrinsic passion and it’s an activity that I have practiced and will continue to practice – in fact, I have literally consumed more than 80% of my lifetime reading. When I was younger I read – I would be reading, and reading, and then pausing to see what is happening in this planet – this world – on our TV, with my father. It’s excruciatingly sad witnessing all of it: deadly wars, health disasters, Earth disasters, floods, earthquakes, Ebola, Coronavirus, the ozone hole, global warming and other things, cruel things. It could make a book of grief.
I would look at myself in the mirror every night after we watched the news. I mean, in a world where democracy and liberalism are the elements and pillars of the foundation of a country, the news is a perfect place to watch horrific facts. And as such, desires grew in me and I saw myself growing. I saw a beacon of altruism in a few humans, and that nurtured inside me a desire to help those victims of vicious consequences. Many consequences, I mean some consequences are purposely made.
Underlying all of my motives is compassion for the suffering victims of humanitarian emergencies and a desire to help them wherever they may be, regardless of how they got there. And acting on such compassion, in my view, also advances as humans our strategic interests in promoting peace and prosperity worldwide. So preventing or reducing such suffering is my number one concern – I believe that this universe is beyond the concept of geography and borders. These borders exist, but we are all mankind and a crisis can differentiate no race, ethnicity, color, gender, religion, or anything – what we share is our humanity; ‘til the wheels fall off.
Tell us about where you live and how people are doing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
I currently live in Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan, which is the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. As of August 24th, the cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 12,682 including 819 associated deaths. And as in every state, the government imposed a curfew from March 2020 until now. On March 16th, we had the closure of all airports, ports, and land crossings. All public travel between states has been banned since March 26th. Domestic movement restrictions were enforced starting March 31st, with a curfew effective between 6 PM and 6 AM in all states. Bridges linking Omdurman, Khartoum, and Khartoum North are closed.
MedGlobal is one of a few organizations working in north & east Sudan. Why is it challenging for organizations to work in Sudan?
To understand that, we have to first understand that Sudan is a country that has suffered many civil wars. The Second Sudanese Civil War lasted from 1983 to 2005 and is one of the longest civil wars on record. The war resulted in the independence of South Sudan six years after the war ended. Roughly two million people died as a result of war, famine, and disease caused by the conflict. Four million people in southern Sudan were displaced at least once during the war. The civilian death toll is one of the highest of any war since World War II and was marked by numerous human rights violations. These include slavery and mass killings.
Sudan also is a country that is suffering from a severe devastating economic collapse, deteriorating health system and that situation is sadly in all states of Sudan. The situation has many variables and disasters are very dynamic. More than 1.2 million refugees reside in refugee camps in the states of Kordofan, Gedaref, White Nile, and the suburbs of the capital, Khartoum, where Medglobal operates. Also in 2019, there were more than eight fatal outbreaks of epidemic diseases (dengue fever, chikungunya fever, Rift Valley fever, malaria, and typhoid) in eastern Sudan states.
MedGlobal succeeded in deep analysis and study of the health situation in Sudan, looking carefully at the humanitarian situation of the country. MedGlobal’s success in eastern Sudan, northern Sudan, and the Kordofan region is due to observing the timing and dynamism of the changes that Sudan is going through, then studying the humanitarian needs carefully, then also the careful decent technical way of selecting national and regional partners to make the correct intervention succeed. Beneficiaries, director generals of hospitals, national partners, and medical staff appreciate the role of MedGlobal operating in these states and its unprecedented efforts in supporting the state hospitals’ plans to respond to the needs of the displaced people and refugees.
How did the recent distributions go? What are some of the challenges that come with these projects?
It’s very sad that sometimes language cannot adequately describe feelings, but I have never seen happiness to such an extent. The feeling of contentment when you see a patient smiling because you helped him – it was so confusing, the chemistry, emotions, what had taken place by MedGlobal was just a pure genuine humanitarian initiative.
MedGlobal’s journey began by forming effective partnerships, then after an accurate studying of the available options, MedGlobal conducted and completed a needs assessment, then began the journey of coordination between partners and ministries to establish and achieve impact.
MedGlobal implemented the COVID-19 response project in six states, and despite the complete ban on movement in cities, MedGlobal succeeded in obtaining a transit permit to deliver services. Despite the rugged roads, lack of fuel and floods, the team succeeded in delivering medical equipment to 8 hospitals that are the largest in Sudan in terms of beneficiaries – it was a real challenge – and the fruits of the trip were the smiles on the lips of these patients.
What is the current weather like where you are?
This is August, so it’s autumn in Sudan. Since it is autumn, the weather is very beautiful, with agriculture and greenery everywhere. Unfortunately autumn carries with it many disasters: September is the month with the highest rates of Malaria during the year. Malaria medicines are completely unavailable to most of the population. Autumn means four things: floods, malaria, infectious disease, and waterborne disease.
What are some hopes you have for MedGlobal’s continued work in Sudan?
Hope – maybe that is the only word for what I saw in the smiles on the faces of these patients – you feel it and know it, as if they cling to that word for life with a belief that there will be a charitable institution for them such as MedGlobal. These 8.8 million people just have hope. The only remaining thing. Countries never prosper nor develop without care and preservation of dignity and human rights. I am very happy to be part of this change and practicing my passion: helping to advance humanity with MedGlobal. I hope that there will be MedGlobal sustainable programs that further support the ailing health sector. And as the motto says: together for a world without health care disparity.