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UN human rights commissioner: ‘Untold suffering awaits Sudan unless it receives help’

April 29 - 2020 GENEVA
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (UN)
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (UN)

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday expressed serious concerns about the crisis facing Sudan’s transition in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. She said that untold suffering awaits Sudan unless donors act fast.

The promise of economic and social development, democracy, justice and peace is being threatened by acute resource constraints on the transitional  government of Sudan, Bachelet said. These resource constraints are exacerbated by a combination of the practical effects of ongoing unilateral sanctions, the failure of international institutions to provide debt-relief, and a deficit of international support, she added.

“The tipping point,” the UN Human Rights Chief and former Chilean president said, “could be Covid-19.”

Medical sources have warned there is a serious shortage of equipment and protective gear. As of 27 April, 275 people had been tested positive with COVID-19, 22 of whom have died, and 21 recovered.

“The health system is simply not equipped to handle an outbreak on the scale we have seen elsewhere in the world. There is only one way to prevent a humanitarian disaster, and that is for the donors to step up and extend a helping hand to Sudan,” said Bachelet.

“We must act swiftly and generously to provide financial support. Otherwise, we run the risk of a country which held such promise relapsing back into political instability and potential conflict.”

In a letter to the UN Secretary-General on 8 April 2020, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok acknowledged that Covid-19 poses profound challenges to his country’s health system, economy, and society as a whole. He sought financial and other technical support to tackle the pandemic.

Of Sudan’s population of 43 million people, nearly 2 million remain internally displaced as a result of conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile state. Most face dire conditions, living in camps or settlements, unable to meet their basic needs. Sudan also hosts more than 1.1 million refugees and migrants. 

Even before the arrival of Covid-19, many Sudanese were battling to make ends meet due to high unemployment, soaring inflation, and lack of social protection and safety nets. These issues have been compounded by the effects of Sudan still being on the US list of States sponsoring terrorism. In addition, Sudan is currently among the countries not eligible to access the $50-billion Trust Fund of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to assist countries to fight Covid-19.

Separately, the UN Secretary-General has urged the international community to do all it can to support the country in its transition, and during this time of serious need.

“The only way Sudan will ever be able to break out of this cycle of poverty and desperation is to be freed from the impediments of sanctions imposed at the time of the previous government. This would enable Sudan to attract investment for its much-needed economic reforms, and to fully access funds of the international financial institutions,” Bachelet said.

“Inequality, and economic and social grievances, were the main triggers of Sudan’s revolution last year. If these and other root causes are not addressed as a matter of priority, Sudan’s successful transition to achieving a durable peace remains distant.”

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