IMPACT OF THE ECONOMIC CRISIS ON HUMANITARIAN NEEDS AND OPERATIONS
The dire economic situation in Sudan, marked by soaring inflation, is compounding chronic underdevelopment and poverty, recurrent climate shocks, disease outbreaks, violence and conflict to generate rising humanitarian needs
The average price of the local food basket increased by nearly 200 per cent compared to 2019, and the cost of health services increased by 90 per cent in 2020.
The deteriorating economic situation has hampered humanitarian operations, negatively impacting people’s access to essential services when they need it the most.
The dire economic situation in Sudan, marked by soaring inflation, is compounding chronic under-development and poverty, recurrent climate shocks, disease outbreaks, violence and conflict to generate rising humanitarian needs.
Inflation reached nearly 170 per cent in August, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics of Sudan, and the spike in prices and shortages of basic commodities, including fuel, food, medicine and hygiene products, is negatively affecting the most vulnerable, marginalized and impoverished people in the country.
The Sudanese Pound continues to depreciate rapidly, further eroding families’ purchasing power and ability to provide for themselves. In a country where 90 per cent of the families already spend around most of their incomes—some 65 per cent— on food, these additional shocks lead to increased hunger and less access to education, health and other essential services that families deprioritize as they try to cope with the economic hardship.
The average price of the local food basket increased by nearly 200 per cent compared to 2019, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). The inflation is pushing up prices of basic food, like sorghum, which is now 240 per cent higher than one year ago and more than 680 per cent higher than the five-year average. The stable food prices are expected to remain high at least until the production of the current season arrives at the markets in November 2020, further extending the current critical lean season that brought one of the highest levels of food insecurity reported in Sudan in the last decade. Over 9.6 million people are severely food insecure at the peak of the lean season (June to September), according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report.
The deteriorating economic situation has hampered humanitarian operations, negatively impacting people’s access to essential services when they need it the most. UN agencies and humanitarian partners are facing important challenges to procure supplies, as the prices increase on a weekly basis. Contracts are being delayed, as the vendors’ offer often change before the process is finalized. Some humanitarian partners reported that they are now able to reach only one of every four people previously assisted, as the increased prices and delays in procurements drained their budgets. Fuel shortages have also affected timely transportation and delivery of aid, which could lead to fewer people being assisted by the end of the year.
Organizations providing cash-transfers to vulnerable families must constantly adjust the amount disbursed, impacting their limited budgets. Even with these adjustments, many families are no longer able to purchase everything they need with the cash received. As result, even people receiving assistance may have to resort to negative coping mechanisms to survive.
During 2020, the cost of health services increased by 90 per cent and, according to National Medical Supply Fund, only 57 per cent of essential emergency medicines were available by September. The arrival of COVID-19 has exacerbated these challenges, resulting in a dramatic drop in health services coverage, including immunization programmes, treatments for malnutrition or maternal care. Underfunding led to a reduction of nearly 20 per cent of measles vaccinations across the country and around 10 per cent of the Penta 3 vaccine, which protects children against tetanus, diphtheria and polio. The low immunization is one of drivers of the vaccine-derived polio outbreak affecting Sudan, caused by low levels of immunization of children under age 5.
The urgent national immunization campaign to stop the ongoing vaccine-derived polio outbreak is facing challenges due to high fuel prices and availability of vehicles. The response to the outbreak must include vaccinating every child under age 5 in the country with oral polio vaccine to stop transmission. The overall cost for the first round of the campaign to reach the nearly 9 million children targeted by the campaign is now estimated in around US$10 million.
More than $5.3 million will be needed for transport costs alone, based on the official exchange rates, which is used for humanitarian operations. With the extremely limited funding available, any further increase in costs would impact the Government and humanitarians’ capacity to carry out the exercise.
The economic situation, compounded by the historic flooding affecting over 830,000 people in all Sudan’s states, have also impacted access to water, hygiene, sanitation (WASH) and health services, increasing risk of communicable disease.
Humanitarians are reporting major challenges as they rush to repair thousands of water points and latrines damaged during the rainy season. According to WASH partners, the prices of locally-procured supplies have increased by 300 to 400 per cent, and, in some cases, the services had to be stopped.
The situation is expected to further deteriorate over the coming months, increasing the number of people who need assistance and hampering humanitarian’s capacity to respond. The gradual reduction of fuel subsidies planned by the Government is likely to push inflation further up and negatively impact vulnerable families, as well as increase costs of humanitarian assistance.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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