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Home » Child/Adolescent Mental Health » Who’s At Risk? » Refugees » Sudan


Sudan is the largest country in Africa.  It is unofficially divided into the North and South regions by religious beliefs.  Sudanese people have experienced decades of civil war dueto religious and ethnic conflicts.  Issues of violence, starvation, discrimination, racism, poverty, and homelessness are all results of the lengthy civil wars that the Sudanese have experienced.

Today, many Sudanese remain in refugee camps after being displaced from their homes due to ongoing civil conflict.  Many Sudanese have relocated to the United States.  Approximately 150 Sudanese refugees live in Vermont today.

The majority (70%) of Sudanese are Sunni Muslim, living primarily in the north and central areas.  The Christian population (5%) lives mainly in the South.  Other Sudanese follow indigenous (animist) beliefs.

Arabic is the official language of the entire country but it is spoken by only about half of the population.  Various dialects are found throughout the country and more than one hundred other languages are spoken, including Nubian, Dinka, Azande, Bari, Nuer, and Shilluk.

In Sudan, people with mental illness are often seen as both a burden and responsibility to the family and to the community in general.  The entire community is expected to support both the person with the mental illness and their family.  If the person with the mental illness is not in danger to themselves or others, they are able to remain in the community freely and everyone watches over them to ensure their safety.  However, if the person with the mental illness is violent or harmful to themselves or others they are brought to a hospital or jail in the closest city.

The idea of confidentiality and privacy is limited in Sudan.  Many people believe that the community should discuss details of others’ lives.  Issues are usually resolved by elders and leaders in the community.  In southern Sudan, issues are resolved at the extended family level and all members discuss the problem and help to find solutions.  Regardless, elders and heads of the family will make the final decision on what is best for that individual or family as a whole.

Sudan: Cultural Considerations for Working with Sudanese Refugees