Health care in rural Sudan is hard to obtain. In the 1970s the
Sudanese government began making medical care more available. In principle, visits
to clinics and medicines became free. There are not, however, enough trained doctors
and nurses or medicines. Recently privatization has made health care more expensive.
In the countryside people often have to travel long distances and wait a long time to see a doctor or nurse. Refrigeration for medicine is also scarce. Most doctors and hospitals are in the north, but even in the cities people rely on expensive private pharmacies.
Compounding the decline in health care have been the years of
famine, resulting in malnutrition among children. Malaria, dysentery, tuberculosis,
tropical diseases such as sleeping sickness and now AIDS have spread unchecked.
The few medical facilities that remain open are frequently controlled by military factions. They are without trained medical practitioners, basic supplies such as syringes, and the most basic antimalarial and antibiotic medicines. International non-governmental organizations or NGOs, manage some health care facilities today.
Traditional healing practices coexist with the remnants of
war-ravaged westernized medical clinics. A traditional way of healing called zar
has had an enormous impact on the health and social life of northern Sudanese women.
Zar ceremonies are conducted by women ritual practitioners to release or cleanse
others from sicknesses brought on by evil spirits, or jinn. For women suffering from
psychological illnesses like depression, such social rituals are helpful. Problems
such as infertility and other organic disorders are also treated.