It’s been one year since conflict first broke out in Sudan and, away from the headlines and the international community’s attention, the country is facing a devastating humanitarian crisis. Every second person, or 25 million people, is in need of humanitarian assistance. Over 8.6 million people are displaced within Sudan and in neighbouring countries with many of them having been forced to move multiple times.

At the same time, 18 million people are facing acute food insecurity and 5 million are on the brink of famine. One in seven children under five is acutely malnourished. With the lean season expected to start soon and without assistance, the situation will only worsen in the coming months.

On top of this, the health system is collapsing, especially in hard-to-reach areas, with health facilities destroyed, looted or struggling with acute shortages of staff, medicines, vaccines, equipment and supplies. Only some 30% of health facilities are still functioning, and at minimal levels. Medical supplies in the country are estimated at about 25% of what is needed. Some states, such as Darfur, have not received any medical supplies for the past year.

This means that in many areas pregnant women and new-born babies are not getting care, there is no vaccination for children, and patients suffering from diabetes, hypertension, cancer or kidney failure are at risk of severe complications or even death from the lack of medication.

The situation is not much better in the neighbouring countries receiving refugees. Chad is currently hosting close to 40% of all Sudanese refugees in the region. In Eastern Chad, refugees continue to arrive, many of them with severe conflict-related injuries and suffering from malnutrition and mental health trauma, putting a further strain on an already weak and fragile health system. Outbreaks of malaria, measles, dengue fever and Hepatitis E are also spreading.

Throughout this crisis, WHO and partners have been on the ground. WHO has reached close to 2.5 million people through direct support to services and delivery of emergency supplies. 3.3 million people received care in mobile clinics. We have also treated 433,000 Sudanese refugees in mobile clinics in eastern Chad.

In the past few months, WHO and partners’ efforts have resulted in a decline in the number of cases of cholera, dengue, and malaria. 4.5 million people over one year of age received the Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) in 6 high-risk states. 5.7 million people in seven states were vaccinated against measles/rubella. We have delivered supplies for the treatment of 115 000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition with medical complications.

Still, much more is needed to save lives and protect people’s health.

Today’s conference for Sudan and its neighbouring countries should consider three priorities: First, we need humanitarian access across borders, and humanitarian corridors, especially in areas not controlled by the government. Access through the Adre crossing with Chad is vital.

Second, we call on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law and stop attacks on health. Health workers, patients, hospitals and other facilities must never be targets.

There have been over 60 attacks on health facilities in the past year. Health workers, patients, hospitals and other facilities must never be targets.

Third, we are ready to scale operations but cannot do it without more support from donors: the health sector has less than 12% of the funding it needs.

Time is running out. Without a stop to the fighting and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian aid, Sudan’s crisis will dramatically worsen in the months to come and could impact the whole region.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is the Director-General of the World Health Organisation