Population Density and Potential COVID-19 Hotspots in Sudan
About 40 days after the first case of COVID-19 was registered in Sudan, the number of confirmed cases reached 162, including 13 deaths, according to the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH).
The overwhelming number of the confirmed cases and almost all fatal cases are from Khartoum State. Khartoum is the largest state in Sudan– it has over 8 million residents or about 20 per cent of the country’s total population, according to the latest estimate from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). Khartoum is also the main international air travel hub--until recently all of the imported COVID-19 cases were registered in Khartoum.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus that causes COVID-19 infects people of all ages. However, evidence to date suggests that two groups of people are at a higher risk of getting severe COVID-19 disease. These are older people and those with underlying medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer).
Compared to other parts of the world that are facing the COVID-19 and similar to many countries in Africa, Sudan has a relatively young population with a small fraction of the population who are above 65. The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) of Sudan reports that according to its 2018 population projections the ratio of people aged 65 and above was 3.2 per cent. This translates into 1.4 million people based on the IPC 2019 population estimate (44 million).
Khartoum and El Gezira are the two most populous states in the country and have the highest numbers of people above the age of 65. Darfur has the youngest population compared to the rest of the country. In comparison, Khartoum State has more people who are above 65 than the whole of Darfur’s five states combined.
Moreover, Khartoum, Gezira, Kassala and White Nile states might face a significant burden on healthcare if the number of cases increases exponentially combined these states have half of all people aged above 65 in Sudan – 654,000 people. In addition, Khartoum and Gezira states have the highest population density in the country. White Nile also hosts about 252,000 refugees, according to UNHCR. While there have been no cases reported among refugees in Sudan, camps and camp-like settings are of particular concern for the spread of COVID-19 due to often crowded conditions and limited basic services.
In White Nile, less than 70% of the population have access to improved water sources and in eight localities in Kassala, Gedaref and Red Sea states, less than half of the population have access to improved water sources, according to the S3M survey carried out in 2018. According to the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene, only about 23% of people in Sudan have access to basic hygiene services (soap and water).
An additional concern for the states in central and eastern Sudan is that this region has seen the highest increase in the number of food insecure people in the country. Humanitarian needs have increased substantially in this area over the past few years as a result of the economic crisis.