SEATTLE, Washington — Since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Sudan in March of this year, there have been over 10,000 recorded cases of the virus and over 600 recorded deaths across the country. When compared to the United States, these numbers may appear small, but limited resources have made it difficult for the Central African nation to assess the full scope of its outbreaks. Many Sudanese people, especially outside of urban areas, are unable to be tested for the virus or are unable to be properly treated. Furthermore, the effect that the outbreak has had in exacerbating existing crises such as drought, food shortage and a recent resurgence of polio, have only put greater stress on the country’s already struggling health system. To make matters worse, the IMF reports that efforts by the Sudanese government to address the pandemic have resulted in rising inflation, lowering the value of Sudan’s currency and putting many Sudanese at risk of extreme poverty.
Sudan’s Financial Restrictions
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated $283 million is needed to address the escalating crisis, with millions of people in urgent need of relief, particularly in the western Darfur regions, where medical infrastructure is less resilient. Credit extensions and relief grants will likely play a key role in Sudan’s COVID-19 recovery as is true of many nations around the world struggling with the economic strain of the pandemic. However, due to its unstable economy and outstanding debts, Sudan has been unable to secure the credit necessary to address its current circumstances from international lenders such as the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank. In light of these restrictions, a recent Senate proposal offers a way for the U.S. to help recovery efforts in Sudan and secure the financial relief it needs during this difficult time.
Support Needed from US Treasury
As a world leader, the U.S. has influential relationships with numerous multilateral development banks (MDBs) across the globe, including the World Bank and the African Development Bank. These financial institutions exist to provide economic support and emergency relief for developing countries, particularly during times of stress. Through its relationship with these banks, officials of the U.S. Treasury Department serve as executive directors of many of these institutions, allowing them to endorse financial support through exercising the “voice and vote” of the United States, provided that the purpose for the funding has received prior approval from Congress.
S.3668: COVID-19 Recovery in Sudan
In May of 2020, Senator Robert Menendez proposed S.3668: A bill to assist COVID-19 recovery efforts in Sudan. If passed, the bill would direct and authorize U.S. officials in relevant MDBs to support further aid to Sudan for its COVID-19 pandemic relief and recovery. While not guaranteed, U.S. backing for loans, credit or other guarantees could be hugely instrumental in improving the situation on the ground in Sudan, with some estimates putting the number of people in need at nearly 10 million. This proposal to assist with COVID-19 in Sudan represents a relatively small legislative step toward potentially saving thousands of lives as the conditions of scarcity continue to worsen for many Sudanese. S. 3668 has yet to gain much traction in Congress but has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for further evaluation.
– Matthew Otey