Basic needs, mental health, and women's health among internally displaced persons in Nyala district, South Darfur, Sudan



Context. Although health assessments of internally displaced persons in Darfur have been reported, very little is known about the women's health and mental health needs in these populations.

Objective. To assess the basic needs, women's health, and mental health burden to help the humanitarian aid community appropriate services in South Darfur.

Design. A cross-sectional, randomized survey of IDP women, using structured questionnaires.

Setting. Six of the nine IDP camps in Nyala district, South Darfur.

Participants. A total of 1293 female household heads representing a total of 8643 household members.

Main Outcome Measures Respondent demographics, basic needs, morbidity, mental health, women's health and human rights, opinions regarding women's rights and roles in society.

Results. The mean (=B1SE) age was 34 (=B10.29) years. Respondents were mostly Muslim (99%) and married (79%). Seventy-eight percent had ration distributions (923/1187), 16% lacked covered shelter (200/1254), and mean water usage was 7.6L/person/day. The mean (=B1SE) number of pregnancies was 6 =B1 0.09 (0-20). Sixty-eight percent used no birth control (861/1266), and 53% (614/1147) reported at least one unattended birth. Thirty percent (374/1238) reported joint decisions among partners on timing and spacing of children, 49% (503/1027) reported the right to refuse sex, and 43% (444/1036) felt that a man may beat his wife if she disobeys. Fifty percent (177/353) reported difficulties breastfeeding, and 84% (1043/1240) had been circumcised. The prevalence of major depression was 31% (390/1253). Women also expressed limited rights to marriage, movement, education, and access to health care.

Conclusions. Humanitarian aid has relieved a significant burden of this displaced population's basic needs; however, general health services, mental health, and women's health needs remain largely unmet and present a formidable challenge for humanitarian agencies in Sudan's South Darfur. The findings indicate limited sexual and reproductive rights that may negatively impact health and the already high maternal mortality rate.

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