Sudan 'needs $120 million' to fight virus outbreak
Sudan urgently needs $120 million to fight the new coronavirus, the country's health minister warned on Saturday, amid a shortage in equipment to fight the epidemic which has ravaged richer countries.
Although Sudan has so far reported relatively few cases, the global outbreak has come at a time when the country finds itself embroiled in an economic crisis.
"We are preparing a strategy to face coronavirus that extends until the end of June, but to execute it we urgently need $120 million to provide protective equipment for healthcare workers and to prepare healthcare facilities and advanced lab testing equipment," health minister Akram Ali Altom told Reuters.
Sudan is currently run through a power-sharing agreement signed in August, between the civilian-led government, in which Altom serves, and the military.
It has been a year since months of protests brought down three-decade ruler Omar al-Bashir.
While Sudan has reported no more than 19 confirmed coronavirus cases, including two deaths, Altom said that the country’s "situation health-wise and economically" left it unable to "handle a large outbreak".
Current capacity for beds with ventilators is in the "hundreds", Altom added.
The coronavirus outbreak is the latest epidemic to face Sudan, which has in the past dealt with outbreaks of cholera with a depleted infrastructure.
Sudan began testing for those who arrived at its international airport in February. In March it closed all airports and border crossings to non-commercial traffic.
The government also imposed a twelve-hour curfew, shut down schools and universities, and banned events and gatherings.
The minister said his ministry has recommended a complete lockdown of the capital Khartoum for three weeks, as well as an increase in the number of quarantine centres and testing capacity.
A major barrier to any lockdown is likely to be the large number of Sudanese people who work in the informal economy.
On Wednesday, twenty portable hand-washing facilities were built in Khartoum, as a response to urgent needs for safe drinking water and sanitation among homeless children and youth in the capital, as well as those in settlements and camps, who face a heightened risk of infection.
The initiative, jointly established by the UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Sudan’s health ministry, also entails awareness session to target vulnerable groups.