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Sudan

For Sudanese, Covid-19 adds complications to economic crisis

In Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, across the River Nile, many shops and markets remained closed
In Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, across the River Nile, many shops and markets remained closed AFP

Prices for commodities in Sudan have steadily increased since the government announced the country’s first Covid-19 death on 12 March and declared a state of emergency declaration soon after. Consumers have been grappling with an economic crisis for a months. The global virus clampdown is making things like masks even more difficult to find on the streets of the capital, Khartoum.

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Closing the borders has further complicated importing items. Signs in Khartoum pharmacies read "no more masks",  making them harder to find and more expensive.

“Before, medical masks sold for 80 pounds (1.3 euros) each. Today they sell for 200 pounds (3.30 euros),” shop owner Haroun Ismail tells RFI. He still has ten masks to sell.

Supplies are hard to come by for traders who sell to the small grocery stores like Ismail’s.

Ousmane Abdul Wahid is having a difficult time getting supplies, which he normally buys from the Omdurman market, the largest in Sudan. He sells protective masks, as well as fashion accessories and clothing, 90 per cent of which comes from China.

“The airport is closed, the borders are closed. I don't know how to bring my products from China,” he said. “I will finish selling what I have here and then I will have to find another job."

The Covid-19 pandemic further complicates the work of Enaam Dablouk, purchasing manager of the National Fund for medical supplies.

“Already, in normal times, we do not have enough foreign currency to buy our medicines and equipment. Now with this crisis, our needs have doubled,” he said. “Closing the borders is a big problem because we are in a race against the clock to import vital medicines and devices, in particular artificial respirators.”

Another concern is international aid. For economist Hatim Said, this global pandemic could shatter the hopes of the Sudanese government.

"I think the government's plan to receive aid from the international community will not materialise, at least not in the short term, because potential donors are now fighting for their own survival," he said. But all is not grim: Sudan exports basic products such as cereals, livestock and gum arabic for which demand should continue.

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