Sudan crisis: Thousands of school children go without breakfast

Thousands of pupils and students in Sudan currently do not enjoy breakfast as their parents can no longer afford the costs.

Classroom in Kabkabiya, North Darfur, built by Unamid, (Albert González Farran/Unamid)

Thousands of pupils and students in Sudan currently do not enjoy breakfast as their parents can no longer afford the costs.

Parents, teachers, and janitors told Radio Dabanga that the majority of the children remain hungry throughout the school day because of their families’ inability to provide them with a decent meal in the morning.

“Most of the students are skipping lessons because of hunger,” a teacher in eastern Sudan said.

Parents of students in El Qaneb locality in Red Sea state pointed to their inability to provide breakfast for their children because of the soaring food prices and the widespread unemployment.

A number of mothers in the poor districts around Khartoum as well complain about having to send their children to school without a proper meal because of poverty.

“More than 70 per cent of the schoolchildren in the area do not buy breakfast at school,” one of them explained. “My children now share one sandwich after the price of three loaves reached five Pounds.” 

A janitor of a school in Darfur reported that hungry students are eating ripe or raw fruits of jujube and desert date trees in the school yards.

Various displaced community leaders in Darfur confirmed that large numbers of students left school because of hunger and the high tuition fees.

Nutritionists describe breakfast as the most important daily meal, which has a great impact on the performance of schoolchildren. Students who do not have breakfast are slower in understanding.

The minimum wage in Sudan lies around SDG 625 (*$22.20). Yet according to economists in Sudan a family of five needs SDG 13,000 ($460) a month to cover the basic necessities of life.

Hard currency crisis

The economy in Sudan has hit rock bottom. Khartoum remains crippled after the loss of millions in oil revenues since South Sudan seceded in 2011. The country’s exports are far from sufficient to cover the amounts of hard currency needed to import most basic commodities.

In early January, inflation spiralled upwards after Khartoum implemented far-fetching austerity measures in compliance with the 2018 National Budget. In an attempt to halt the plummeting Pound on the parallel forex market, the customs rate of the US Dollar was raised from SDG 6.7 to an indicative SDG 18. The prices of basic commodities, such as bread, doubled, the prices of some medicines even tripled.

The hard currencies’ rates however, continued to rise. The price of gold witnessed a major leap as well. On February 5, Khartoum increased the indicative exchange rate of the US Dollar again, from SDG 18 to more than SDG 28. The prices of staple cereals jumped again.

Following new increases in the prices of food and other basic consumer goods in Sudan in mid-July, economic analysts are warning of an imminent economic collapse and call for comprehensive political reforms.

The inflation rate rose to 63.86 per cent in June. On July 19, the US Dollar sold for 46 Sudanese Pounds on the parallel markets, up from 44 Pounds on July 11.

Apart from skyrocketing prices, the majority of the Sudanese are suffering from continuing fuel shortages, a scarcity of wheat and medicines, repeated power cuts and drinking water outages.

Opposition parties and farmers have warned for a serious food crisis this year. The US Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) reported in June that the high staple food and fuel prices are reducing the production of crops and consequently increasing the assistance needs in the country.

Financial analysts are warning of an imminent economic collapse. They say that comprehensive political reforms are needed to save the country.

* Based on the indicative US Dollar rate quoted by the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS)