April 30th, 2020
COVID-19 and Sudan
Amidst the current pandemic, no country is unaffected by the outbreak of COVID-19. Whilst it stretches our empathy to think of others in an already difficult time, it’s important to remember that communities that were already struggling will be hit hardest by this global nightmare, this is the case in Sudan. As of 25th April, Sudan has a relatively low number of cases, however the figure is rising exponentially with 213 in the country in total. More alarmingly, a similar proportion of people with the disease are dying as are recovering in the country; Sudan currently has had 17 deaths and 19 recoveries. The vast majority of the cases thus far have been in Khartoum where medical facilities are much more easily available than in more rural parts of the country, where it can be expected that the recovery rate will be lower. However due to the lack of testing taking place, the real number of cases could be much higher than the official figure.
Like many other countries, Sudan has imposed measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19: on 18th April, Khartoum imposed a full curfew. These measures have perhaps had a greater social impact in Sudan than in neighbouring Christian countries as the outbreak has coincided with the holy month of Ramadan. Typically, Ramadan traditionally involves social gatherings, breaking fast at sunset or together in packed mosques for late-night prayers and festive dining until early in the morning. For many Sudanese people, this year’s Ramadan is completely unfamiliar. Customs like going to markets to prepare traditional Sudanese cuisine like Aseeda and drink like Hilumore for the festivities are now impossible.
Whilst the government has acted quickly in the face of the outbreak – banning travel between states, closing schools and releasing over 4,000 prisoners – more is needed to protect the most vulnerable. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, Sudan’s health sector was facing challenges of corruption, underfunding and mismanagement: issues included a shortage of staff, intensive care beds and medical equipment. Sudan has a huge population of internally displaced peoples following years of conflicts, many of whom live in large camps. Nearly half of the population live under the poverty line and don’t have the luxury of social distancing in small households. Further investment in health services is needed to facilitate the needs of those living in densely populated areas: including provision of soap, water points, testing facilities and increased public information about the virus.
Furthermore, the government must now wrestle with containing the virus without stunting the growth of the economy. Measures such as restriction of movement are worsening the economic situation, with commodity prices soaring across the country. In the face of what is likely to be a global economic downturn, it is crucial for international agencies to support vulnerable overseas communities who are likely to face the effects of COVID-19 for decades to come.
If you wish to support HART’s Sudanese partners with hygiene and sanitation initiatives, please donate via our website.
By Abbie Brooks
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