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OCHA Sudan: Medical supplies may be affected by Covid-19 measures

April 10 - 2020 KHARTOUM
A pharmacy in Khartoum, January 2013 (The Globe and Mail)
A pharmacy in Khartoum, January 2013 (The Globe and Mail)

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan said in its latest Situation Report on Thursday that the medical supply chains to Sudan are likely to be affected by measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. UN partners in the country have updated their Covid-19 Response Plan. Sudan’s private sector and local organisations launched initiatives to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the country. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Sudan supplied key government offices with laptops, devices and teleconference facilities. About 7.6 million people in Sudan received humanitarian aid in 2019.

As part of the measures to prevent the spread and control of the coronavirus, ships passing through the Suez Canal into Port Sudan, Sudan’s main port for the imports of strategic commodities, will remain in quarantine for 14 days. This is also applicable to shipments from China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Egypt, and Europe. There are concerns that this will delay any consignments, including vital medicines and medical supplies.

Customs clearance procedures for medicines and medical supplies, including those related to Covid-19 response, normally take between 3-4 weeks if there are no interruptions. Currently, humanitarian agencies are facing challenges in terms of clearance of medical supplies due to working from home arrangements and due to some government entities working with limited staff (30 per cent), which impact the whole process.

As the current regular procedures take time and affect the ability to respond to Covid-19, the UN and its partners advocate for a fast track release of all shipments and supplies for the coronavirus response on an exceptional basis.

Prior to Covid-19 Sudan’s imports of medicine and medical supplies were already affected by economic crisis. In 2019, Sudan’s medicine imports were 20 per cent less compared to 2017, according to the latest update from the Central Bank of Sudan.

A portable hand-washing station in Sudan (OCHA)

The Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, donated $50 million to Sudan’s Health Ministry for Covid-19 response in the country.

In addition, as part of its global humanitarian and health assistance response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the United States announced on 27 March a donation of $8 million to Sudan. This assistance will primarily provide health-related support and supplies to bolster water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) activities.

Covid-19 response plan, local initiatives

UN partners updated the Covid-19 Country Preparedness and Response Plan. The plan, which requires USD $47 million to implement, focuses on public health measures and covers a three-month period, and will be updated on a monthly basis or if the situation changes.

Coronavirus preparedness and response planning is also underway at the state level. The majority of states have established dedicated task forces and developed state specific plans. Awareness campaigns are underway, including in the camps for the displaced in North and South Darfur.

The private sector in Sudan and local organizations and groups launched several initiatives to combat the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

The Businessmen’s Union, telecommunications companies, and the Banking Union have pledged 200 million Sudanese pounds (nearly $2 million) as a first payment to support the government’s health plan to address the coronavirus in the country.

Keeping Sudan’s government connected

 UNDP installs teletools at govt offices (OCHA)

The UNDP in Sudan supplied and installed laptops, devices and two teleconference facilities to ensure that Sudan’s key government offices can continue functioning while observing physical distancing.

Now offices and staff can connect remotely, host multiple virtual meetings simultaneously, and lead by example by minimizing contact and office congestion.

“A key part of UNDP’s work is supporting core government functions in Sudan, so this was a fast and easy way to assist,” said UNDP Sudan’s Resident Representative Selva Ramachandran.

“We’re urgently looking at how we can similarly help other government and state-level offices, and support the Ministry of Health and others with short-term and long-term assistance for the Covid-19 response,” he added.

7.6 million people in Sudan received aid last year

In 2019, 7.6 million people across Sudan received humanitarian assistance provided by the UN and partners under the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), according to the 2019 HRP Monitoring Report (January - December 2019) released this week.

This includes 7.1 million people who received multi-sectoral assistance (assistance from more than two sectors). The overwhelming majority of the multi-sectoral response –90 per cent– focused on Darfur, South Kordofan, West Kordofan, and Blue Nile state.

While needs have been increasing in these areas, there was a lack of partners who could deliver multi-sectoral assistance and lack of funding to implement programmes – these shortages of resources have hampered the timely delivery of services, the OCHA SitRep reads.

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