“An historic opportunity is being lost in Sudan right now in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. The new government shows a willingness to provide for people in need and remake the country, but we need the international community to rally to its relief now. A huge opportunity to cement positive change and defend vulnerable communities from the unfolding health crisis may be lost if they don’t,” warned Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
The first cases of coronavirus are confirmed in Sudan, with numbers likely to increase exponentially in coming weeks as in other countries with limited resources to prevent the spread.
After more than 30 years with repressive government, Sudan has now embarked on a path to peace and human rights. A citizen-led revolution in 2019 brought in a transition government that indicates it is willing to put Sudan’s people first.
NRC was one of 13 NGOs expelled from Sudan by former President Bashir’s regime in 2009. The new government in Khartoum has invited our organisation back to operate in the country.
The new leadership is struggling with a legacy of mismanagement, financial constraints and a deep economic crisis. Conflict and economic crisis have pushed over 9 million Sudanese to rely on humanitarian assistance in 2020, of whom close to 1.9 million have fled their homes. In addition, Sudan is hosting more than a million refugees from neighbouring countries, including South Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Humanitarians are ready to scale up the aid response in Sudan, but there is woefully little funding. Sudan’s aid appeal for 2020 is among the largest in the world, with US$1.3 billion needed to help those in need. But as little as 13 per cent of the appeal is funded so far.
In addition to huge funding gaps preventing progress, Sudan remains on the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism. This listing could aggravate the current crisis, potentially preventing the flow of much-needed funding for the response into the country.
When coronavirus spreads across Sudan on top of sanctions and a huge economic crisis, it will decimate crowded displacement camps, slums and community centres.
“Sudan’s revolution began by ordinary people complaining about a lack of bread. Today people queue for hours under the desert sun to buy bread. If the Sudanese do not feel that their situation improving, the transitional government could fail or be ousted, driving the country into chaos again. The world would then regret our inaction today,” warned Egeland.