SEATTLE, Washington — Considerable opposition to the government’s quarantine policies has arisen in Sudan, prompting disagreements among different socioeconomic classes. Strict lockdown policies have emerged from governments worldwide in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting dissent from those concerned with prioritizing economic well-being. Sudan is not unique in this regard. However, the transitional civilian Sudanese government has thus far proven unable to provide monetary support to those unemployed, and many Sudanese citizens are actively participating in the lockdown debate in Sudan.
COVID-19 Lockdowns in Sudan
As of June 21, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sudan sits at 8889. The government announced an extension of the 24-hour lockdown until June 29. The lockdown prohibits the public from going to work or using public transportation.
For many Sudanese workers, the lockdown measures and their inability to work present a terrifying possibility of falling into poverty. According to a 2009 study by the World Factbook, approximately 46.5% of Sudan’s population live below the poverty line. The prevalence of poverty in Sudan is no secret, nor are the economic dangers posed by the lockdown. Thus, the Sudan government made promises to distribute aid to mitigate individuals’ and families’ challenges in finding work during the lockdown.
However, many Sudanese are concerned that the government’s promised aid has yet to arrive. Only 60% of the half a million families promised aid had received the support. As a result, many Sudanese workers that depend on daily wages are calling for the lockdown to end.
The government claims that the poor distribution of resources is due to technical issues, and Minister of Health Akram Ali Altom has asked for an additional $120 million in funding to combat COVID-19 in Sudan properly.
Lockdowns: An ongoing debate in Sudan
Conversely, other Sudanese citizens are concerned that the lockdown measures are not strict enough, and worry that too many citizens are flouting the rules by gathering in public. Theses citizens fear the spread of COVID-19 will continue and quicken if stricter measures are not taken. This concern was a particularly prevalent sentiment during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, during which many mosques stayed open and allowed large congregations for prayer, despite orders to close.
The debate over lockdown restrictions in Sudan largely stems from the transitional nature of the emerging democracy’s government. However, several NGOs and international humanitarian organizations are working to combat COVID-19 and poverty in the country. For instance, CARE Sudan is working to create solutions that would allow Sudanese safe re-entry back into the workforce. Moreover, CARE Sudan is producing face masks, setting up isolation centers and training volunteers to mobilize COVID-19 awareness campaigns. Although the organization’s main initiatives concern childhood poverty, microfinancing and social justice, it has adapted its policies to prioritize an innovative response to the international emergency.
The imposition of a COVID-19 lockdown, the subsequent loss of income and the potential spread of the virus have stimulated a fierce debate in Sudan. While some advocate for the end of the lockdown so they can return to work and avoid falling into poverty, others feel that reopening the country is too dangerous given the prevalence of the virus within Sudanese borders.
The ongoing COVID-19 lockdown debate, along with the lack of support from the government, presents significant challenges for Sudan amid the pandemic. However, NGOs and humanitarian organizations have taken responsibility during this challenging time, and are actively seeking out ways to allow for economic well-being without endangering the public.