Sudan receives assistance from the international community to combat COVID-19
As the number of people with confirmed COVID-19 continues to increase the health system in Sudan is struggling to cope with the demand, according to health authorities. More than 7,000 people have now been confirmed to have COVID-19, including over 450 deaths.
Compounded with the current economic crisis, health services are in dire need of more assistance. The Central Bank of Sudan (CBS) reported a decline in the import of medicines for the past couple of years—mainly due to the economic crisis. While imports of medicine in 2019 improved slightly compared to 2018, their levels are 20 per cent below that of 2017, according to the CBS 2019 Foreign Trade Statistics Digest. This decline in imports has resulted in a decrease in the availability of medicine in both government and private sectors compared to previous years, report the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
In late April, the official union for Sudanese doctors, the Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors (CCDC), warned against the complete collapse of the health system due to the lack of medical supplies and personal protection equipment (PPE) needed by medical staff to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. By mid-May, the FMoH said they are facing shortages in medical supplies and financial resources needed to implement their COVID-19 preparedness plan.
To help Sudan combat COVID-19 the international community has provided financial support and medical supplies.
In early May, the United States allocated US$ 23.1 million in financial support for COVID-19 response in Sudan. This financial assistance includes $16.8 million for risk communication, case-management, disease surveillance, infection prevention and control, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes; $5 million for cash assistance to vulnerable families adversely affected by COVID-19; and more than $1.3 million to support vulnerable people.
On 28 May, a Chinese medical team arrived in Sudan to assist the country in its response to COVID-19 and in June the Chinese authorities provided funding for the renovation of the first field hospital in Khartoum State. Formerly a camping centre for youth, the newly renovated field hospital will provide testing, isolation and treatment services for people with COVID-19. The estimated capacity of the hospital is between 300 and 400 beds and will serve people with mild and moderate COVID-19 symptoms.
On 10 June, the first flight of the European Union (EU) funded Humanitarian Air Bridge to support Sudan tackle the impact of COVID-19 arrived in Khartoum. The cargo flight carried 90 tons of medical equipment, vaccines, water purifiers, medical kits, medicine, and personal protection equipment (PPE) for medical staff. The supplies were distributed and used by the international organizations of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the International Medical Corps (IMC), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF), in coordination and cooperation with the FMoH.
On 15 June, a Turkish cargo plane carrying medical supplies to help Sudan combat the spread of COVID-19 arrived in Khartoum International Airport. The cargo plane contained 140 packages of medical supplies, including protective masks, safety goggles and gloves. The supplies will be delivered to the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS) to distribute among health centres.
The Al Maktoum Foundation sent medical supplies to help COVID-19 response on 6 June. The United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based foundation donated 37 tons of medical supplies, including protective clothing, masks, sterilizers, glucose, and other items. As part of its aid package pledged to Sudan, the UAE delivered about 154 tons of medical supplies between April and May. The three shipments contained medical supplies and equipment to help Sudan’s healthcare system and to respond to COVID-19.
The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) donated medical supplies worth $90,000. The supplies included thermometers, face masks, and gloves.
The Government of Egypt sent four planes of medical supplies to Sudan on 4 May. The supplies included sanitization/autoclave equipment; masks; protective suits; ventilators; oxygen level testing kits; viruses lab equipment; medical solutions; and other medical supplies and kits.
Days after Sudan announced its first confirmed COVID-19 case, the Chinese businessman Jacques Ma sent medical supplies to Sudan. The shipment included testing kits, masks and PPEs arrived on an Ethiopian cargo plane on 23 March. The testing kits were delivered to the national testing facility, while face masks and protective gear were distributed to health facilities throughout the country.
According to the Sudan COVID-19 Country Preparedness and Response Plan (CPRP), the health system in Sudan is marked by decades of limited to no investment, underfunding, and lack of qualified staff, infrastructure, equipment, medicines and supplies. The surveillance system does not cover the entire country and is structurally weak with long delays between alert and confirmation of an outbreak. Sudan lacks sufficient and adequately trained medical staff to support increased demand, isolation units, intensive care units, infection control materials, medicines and medical supplies to address outbreaks like COVID-19 in all states across the country. Despite the assistance provided, health authorities in Sudan still need the help of the international community to continue their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, provide routine health services, as well as rebuild the health system in Sudan.
During the first quarter of 2020, HRP partners reached 1.7 million people in Sudan with humanitarian assistance, according to the 2020 Sudan HRP quarterly monitoring. This is equivalent to 27 per cent of the 6.1 million people that they aim to assist in 2020. For health response, HRP partners have reached 1.4 million people – 28 per cent of the target.