The African nation of Sudan has faced ongoing turbulence. The country has endured violent conflict, transfers of power and severe economic turmoil. For Sudanese citizens, one current and very dangerous threat is the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sudan.
Political and Economic Challenges in Sudan
In the last 70 years, Sudan has seen two civil wars. The first lasted from 1955 to 1972 and the second began in 1983 and ended in 2005. Six years later, in 2011, Sudan split in two as a portion of the country seceded and became the independently-governed South Sudan. However, the data this article presents is not applicable to South Sudan.
Most of Sudan’s society is tribal and many citizens live in rural nomadic communities. The economy is struggling and COVID-19 has worsened these circumstances. According to the latest available data from UNICEF’s 2018-2021 Country Programme document, about 36% of the population is currently impoverished and a quarter of all Sudanese citizens live in extreme poverty.
Before 2011, oil accounted for 95% of Sudan’s exported goods, but Sudan lost all that revenue when the country split, which damaged the already fragile economy even further. When the South Sudanese civil war broke out in 2013, refugees rushed north and Sudan saw a dramatic increase in refugees. As of September 2021, Sudan hosts more than 1.1 million refugees from other countries, adding to Sudan’s strain.
The Arrival of COVID-19 in Sudan
As is the case with many low-income countries, the arrival of COVID-19 in Sudan presented significant challenges. Limited resources make it difficult to stop outbreaks. Due to minimal resources, case reporting and testing lag behind and the vaccine rollout is small-scale. As of May 1, 2022, Sudan has administered slightly more than 7 million vaccine doses, which covers slightly more than 16% of the population.
April 2019 marked then-President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office, and the following September, a new system of government came into place. Thus, it is unsurprising that when the pandemic began, the new government was ill-equipped to deal with it. Many health services had no choice but to shut down due to high rates of mortality and infection among employees.
After the appearance of the first COVID-19 cases in March 2020, the Sudanese government imposed a lockdown that lasted from April 2020 to July 2020, although this proved ineffective due to community resistance and insufficient law enforcement.
Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Sudan
As the second wave of COVID-19 in Sudan hit in November 2020, mortality rates began to rise among citizens of all ages. At the highest mortality point, one out of every five intensive care patients died from COVID-19.
COVID-19 also threatens Sudanese food security. A “survey of 4,032 rural and urban households across the 18 states of Sudan” from June 16, 2020, to July 5, 2020, reveals “the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.” More than 50% of people in Sudan could not access main staple foods. Many people had to change their practices regarding food and almost half of the families surveyed reported food security concerns.
Most people have not received any type of aid from the government. At the time of the survey, around two-thirds of previously employed citizens had not returned to work.
USAID Assists Sudan
Fortunately, the United States is lending a hand, and as of February 2022, USAID has donated more than 1.2 million vaccine doses and $98 million to assist Sudan with COVID-19. Aside from vaccine rollout, USAID is also assisting with food and water distribution, sanitation, COVID-19 testing, clinical management and public information efforts. USAID mission director, Mervyn Farroe, said in a statement, “USAID/Sudan is committed to building back a better world, one that is better prepared to prevent, detect and respond to future biological threats, and where all people can live safe, prosperous and healthy lives.”
Overall, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sudan has been hard-hitting. The country has endured significant stress for decades and recent political events compound issues and place grave strain on the economy. With more than a million refugees, a quarter of the population in extreme poverty and continuing impacts from the secession, COVID-19 in Sudan is the latest in a long list of reasons why Sudan is in dire need of international aid.
– Mia Sharpe