Less than half of emergency medicines available
Located on one of the major streets of Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, 60th street, Lamis is listening carefully to a customer who came to her pharmacy looking for a medicine for a sick relative. She answers the questions of the young customer, with the shelves behind her half empty. The customer takes the medicine that is available and leaves.
“We have only medicines that are produced locally in Sudan, some antibiotics, painkillers and other medicines. As for the imported drugs, we have not been receiving them from suppliers for some time,” Lamis said, explaining why half of the shelves are empty.
“The suppliers say that they don’t have hard currency to buy and import the drugs. That is how we have only locally produced drugs,” the pharmacist said.
This means that some of the drugs, which are not produced locally are not available, she said. When asked what the people do if the medication they need is not available, she replies: “Allah Kareem [“Allah is the most generous” in Arabic]”.
Half-empty shelves at Lamis’ pharmacy symbolize the challenges that Sudan has been facing recently to ensure the supplies of medicines from abroad amidst the ongoing economic crisis, lack of hard currency and spiraling inflation.
Sudan’s National Medical Supplies Fund reports that the availability of essential emergency medicines reduced to 47 per cent by the end of January 2021 compared to 88 per cent in January 2020.
The latest available data from the Central Bank of Sudan indicates that in January-September 2020 Sudan imported about US$249 million worth of various medicines, about 14 per cent higher than during the same period of 2019, but is 25 per cent lower compared to 2017 (the year before the economic crisis started).
The lack of medicines is compounded by the cost of health services increasing by 200 per cent compared to last year. Health services have also been affected by lack of funding and strikes by health staff who have not received salaries and incentives for months. By the end of 2020, the number of functional primary healthcare centres decreased by 40 per cent across the country, according to the health sector estimates.
In 2020, despite these challenges and restrictions related to COVID-19 containment measures, health sector partners in Sudan provided 3.9 million people in Sudan with access to health services, of whom 2.9 million were people assisted in Darfur.