Sudan's Minister of Health Akram Ali Altom speaks during a Reuters interview amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Khartoum, Sudan, April 11, 2020.

Sudan's Minister of Health Akram Ali Altom speaks during a Reuters interview amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Khartoum, Sudan, April 11, 2020.

Credit:

Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters 

Earlier this week, senior members of former Sudan President Omar al-Bashir’s regime were reportedly diagnosed with the coronavirus and transferred from the notorious Kober prison to a hospital in Sudan’s capital city of Khartoum.

It has put a spotlight on how the country’s health care system was laid to waste under Bashir’s regime, which was toppled and replaced by a civilian-led government last year.

“Our public hospitals in Sudan over the past 30 years have deteriorated to the extent that they are hardly providing the regular health services to patients.”

Nahla Gadalla, Sudanese American Medical Association

“Our public hospitals in Sudan over the past 30 years have deteriorated to the extent that they are hardly providing the regular health services to patients,” said Nahla Gadalla, executive director of the Sudanese American Medical Association. “There’s no clear flow of information. It’s very hard for the central government, for the federal Ministry of Health to have the numbers or the data to support the decision-making.”

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Although the coronavirus was slow to reach Sudan in late March, it has already overwhelmed local health systems, leading to the closures of hospitals and health facilities. The virus has spread among health workers across the country.

The African country reported 4,521 cases of the coronavirus and more than 200 deaths as of Friday.

Gadalla, an infectious disease expert, notes the country was also dealing with back-to-back outbreaks of cholera and Rift Valley Fever in the months before COVID-19 hit.

Limited financial resources and billions of dollars in debt have also hampered Sudan’s response to the coronavirus.

Last month, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet argued that sanctions, particularly those related to the US State Sponsors of Terrorism listing, were restricting Sudan from accessing IMF and World Bank funding for COVID-19 relief.

“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.” 

Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights

“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,” she said.

“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 health care workers and to prepare health care facilities and advanced lab testing equipment,” Sudan’s health minister, Akram Ali Altom, said in April.

In addition to donations from other countries coming into Sudan, diaspora organizations such as SAMA are helping to fill the gap.

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Bakri Ali, a businessman in Connecticut and a member of the University of Khartoum Alumni Association has played his part by fundraising to buy medical supplies like gloves and masks for the Ministry of Health.

“It’s a slow process that takes days, and days, sometimes weeks, to transfer even $10,000,” he said, noting how years of sanctions and corruption have isolated Sudan’s economy from global banking and financing.

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