‘We cannot fly back to Khartoum anymore’: Sudanese patients abroad

Soaring flight prices following Khartoum’s liberalisation of the US Dollar value prevent Sudanese from travelling abroad for medical treatment.

The soaring prices of airline tickets prevent Sudanese from travelling abroad for medical treatment or studies.

Since years, Sudanese patients who can afford it prefer to be treated in Egypt and Jordan instead of in Khartoum. However, the sky-rocketing flight prices following Sudan’s liberalisation of the US Dollar value are hindering many of them to leave or return to the country.

Speaking to Radio Dabanga from the Egyptian capital, Karrar Askar reported that the treatment of his relative took more time than expected. “Our tickets expired, and we are now facing a traumatic experience.

“Returning to Sudan by sea or over land is too dangerous for the patient, and we really cannot afford the exorbitant flight prices back to Khartoum. Our relatives are unable to help us out again as they have already taken on too many debts for the treatment costs in Cairo.” he said.

Sudanese receiving treatment in Jordan have requested the Embassy of Sudan in Amman to find a solution.

“Many families have collected all their savings to have their sick relative to travel to Jordan for treatment, and do not have the money to buy such expensive return tickets,” a relative of a patient told this station from Amman.

“The latest economic measures will deprive many patients and also students from travelling abroad,” he added.

Hard currency

On 3 November, the Minister of Finance announced the liberalisation of fuel prices in the country. The measures that took effect the next day are part of an economic reform programme, which according to President Omar Al Bashir had to be decided on “to avoid the collapse of the country”.

As the ongoing shortages of hard currency at the Central Bank of Sudan continued to push the black market rate of the US Dollar upwards this year, the government as well freed the official hard currency rates for a number of import goods and services last week. This immediately affected the prices of wheat and medicines, in addition to international flight tariffs.

On Wednesday, the Civil Aviation Corporation officially requested airlines flying on Sudan to adopt the new Sudanese Pound rate of 15.90 for one US Dollar – which nears the current black market rate ranging between SDG17.50-18. The former official Dollar rate was set at SDG6.

The prices of airline tickets immediately rose by more than 150 per cent. A return flight from Khartoum to the Jordanian capital now costs SDG10,000 ($1,520), and to Cairo more than SDG18,000 ($2,750).

The hard currency rate on the black market in Sudan began to rise rapidly in 2010. In September that year, the Central Bank of Sudan announced that the lack of hard currency was becoming acute. The secession of South Sudan in July 2011, with which Sudan lost two-thirds of its oil revenues, an important source of hard currency, exacerbated the crisis.