Sudan: Anti-Coronavirus Measures Affect Humanitarian Access

Khartoum — The UN Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported in its latest Situation Report on April 2 that the measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are already having some impact on humanitarian aid in the country. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is preparing a response to a potential coronavirus outbreak among refugees, displaced people, and their host communities. Staple food prices continue to increase across Sudan. Care International Switzerland (CIS) has conducted a field mission to East Jebel Marra in South Darfur.

The measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are already having some impact on humanitarian access, education and protection services due to the reduction of services in certain government offices, the closure of schools and the limitations on movements.

An OCHA task force was established to examine the impact of these measures on humanitarian operations. The force, with support from the Humanitarian Country Team, will work with partners to establish mechanisms that will ensure humanitarian response can continue.

Specific areas that have already seen an impact or will likely see a future impact include access, education, shelters, food security, health, nutrition, protection, Gender-Based Violence trainings, child protection, and Refugee Response.

The Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), the Sudanese government body which oversees humanitarian work, gave all nonessential staff leave until 29 March.

Some NGOs have reported delays in administrative procedures, including the approval of agreements to implement humanitarian projects.

This year, more than 700,000 vulnerable children in Sudan are targeted to receive some form of education services. Education for all students in Sudan has been put on hold for one month, starting from 14 March. All scheduled workshops for teachers have been cancelled and classroom construction has been delayed.

The health system in Sudan has been affected by years of under-investment and economic crisis. Only one third of health facilities offer a complete basic package of care. - OCHA Sudan

Precautions have been put in place for Covid-19 in terms of distribution of non-food items and shelter supplies. As for the distribution of food items, partners in most locations are planning to organise advance rations for 2-3 months at one time. This will limit the frequency of gatherings of people and potential spreading of infections.

The health system in Sudan has been affected by years of under-investment and economic crisis. Only one third of health facilities offer a complete basic package of care. Health facilities are understaffed and underequipped to cope with largescale outbreaks, and there are significant shortages of essential medicines, according to the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for Covid-19.

To reduce possible exposure risks of severely acutely malnourished children, there will be an increase in the supply of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food. Mother support group activities have been suspended.

Should the coronavirus spread, there may be a significant impact on the protection of people in areas in which humanitarian needs are already present. New protection concerns may also emerge as a result of the pandemic.

Field missions by the protection staff are limited, partner organisations have also limited their staff presence in camps for the displaced. Most monitoring is being conducted remotely.

UNHCR prepares for COVID-19 response

The UNHCR, together with partners, is working on the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus and preparing to respond to a potential outbreak among refugees, displaced people, and their host communities.

Many refugees live in densely populated camps with inadequate health infrastructure and WASH -water, sanitation and hygiene- facilities, the OCHA SitRep reads. In addition, the remote location of some refugee hosting areas and camps poses logistical and communication challenges.

In field locations, offices are practicing distancing by having some staff work from home. However, field visits are ongoing to ensure continuation of basic services and to accelerate preparedness work for Covid-19.

The borders with South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic (CAR), Libya, Chad and Egypt are officially closed. Given the porous nature of land borders, a small number of asylum-seekers continues to arrive. UNHCR continues to monitor new arrivals across the country.

Food prices continue to increase

Staple food prices continue to increase across Sudan, with February 2020 prices recorded up to double of February 2019 levels, according to the latest Sudan Price Bulletin from FEWS NET.

The annual inflation rate increased to 71.3 per cent in February 2020 - Central Bureau of Statistics

Continuing rising food prices are a major concern for 5.8 million food and livelihood insecure people across the country. Nominal retail prices for feterita, a variety of sorghum, in most of the monitored markets in February were about double of February 2019 levels.

The Sudanese Central Bureau of Statistics said in its latest update that the annual inflation rate increased to 71.3 per cent in February 2020.

Bread shortages have significantly worsened in recent days, and the number of people lining up in front of bakeries in Khartoum has increased.

An owner of a bakery group told a local media outlet that the bread crisis is due to shortages of flour, the conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic; and the increasing cost of bread production. Another media report said that 80 per cent of bakeries may embark on a strike on April 4 because of power outages and the shortages of flour and cooking gas.

Sorghum, millet, and wheat are the most important food commodities in Sudan.

CIS conducts field mission to East Jebel Marra

Care International Switzerland carried out a mission to Jabra, Kidigneer and Feina cluster villages in East Jebel Marra locality in South Darfur from 9-15 March, to assess their water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health and nutrition operations.

CIS signed a technical agreement with the State Ministry of Health in February to operate health clinics in the three cluster villages.

A marked increase in market prices was reported for food and other commodities. Most of the water facilities in the Feina area are not functioning forcing women collect water from unprotected water sources.

There are no health and nutrition facilities in the area, leading to the community having to walk more than eight hours to Feina and Kidigneer for services.

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