Free health plans in oil-rich Sudan

KHARTOUM - Rising oil revenues mean Sudan will give free healthcare to children under five and waive fees for Caesarean sections from February 1 in a move that will cost R144million a year, a senior health official said yesterday

KHARTOUM - Rising oil revenues mean Sudan will give free healthcare to children under five and waive fees for Caesarean sections from February 1 in a move that will cost R144million a year, a senior health official said yesterday

After decades of north-south civil war ended in 2005, oil revenues have increased and the economy has boomed despite conflict in Darfur.

Health ministry under-secretary Kamal Abdel Gadir said: "This is a long-term plan to make all medication, treatment and investigations free . for this vulnerable group of children under five."

Many in Sudan complain that three years on they have seen little peace dividend and even less of the oil revenues Sudan receives from its output of more than half-a-million barrels a day.

The move will help thousands of families who struggle, beg and borrow to pay for expensive healthcare.

The policy will also apply to emergency and elective Caesarean sections, which costs on average R360 in government hospitals.

According to the World Bank, per capita income in Sudan is R4682 a year.

Abdel Gadir said the money would come from the central health budget and arose from the increase in oil revenues following the 2005 peace deal.

"We need to bear the burden of the citizens on contributing to their services," he said, adding that new hospitals were being built and existing ones were being renovated.

In Khartoum, local and central government taxes are heavy and services such as electricity, healthcare and water are expensive for Sudanese. - Reuters

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