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Sudan Humanitarian Fund supports urgent COVID-19 efforts

15 May 2020

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CARE Sudan and partners are providing face masks and other equipment to help contain the pandemic. Credit: CARE International/Sara Azhari

“You cannot move a hill just by one push, but you can chip at it little by little, until you manage to move it.” This is how CARE Sudan Country Director El Fateh Osman describes the adoption of COVID-19 social distancing measures in Sudan.

Culturally, when Sudanese people meet, they hug and shake hands – the very things that social distancing discourages.

Mr. Osman says he has seen progress in the adoption of social distancing measures in Sudan in the fight against COVID-19. He cites funerals as an example of where recent changes have been made in society, noting that prior to the pandemic, such events were attended by many people, who would remain with the bereaved family for long periods of time. Now, however, the rites are performed quickly and the few people who are in attendance disperse immediately afterwards.

For its part, CARE Sudan no longer holds large awareness-raising sessions for any of its activities, including on COVID-19. Instead, the organization conducts individual in-home sessions and uses the radio for mass messaging in observance of social distancing protocols by the Federal Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO). Informal channels such as women’s and youth groups are also helping to spread prevention messages.

CARE is one of seven non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that received US$1.2 million from the Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SHF) to start the COVID-19 response in Sudan. The seven NGOs are working in various states throughout the country.

With the $314,000 that it received, CARE plans to establish and equip two isolation centres in health facilities in South Kordofan State, train health workers and equip them with personal protective equipment, and improve water sources and sanitation in their area of operation.

Thanks to funding from the SHF, CARE Sudan was also able to scale up the COVID-19 response immediately after the funding was approved in April. The organization relied on the experience gained from its response to an acute watery diarrhoea outbreak a few years ago. Using a similar approach that it took in that response, 150 community volunteers have received training on appropriately informing community members about how to avoid infection and how to seek help in case they come across someone with COVID-19 symptoms. The community volunteers will also work with 30 community leaders who will be trained, along with CARE staff, on an early warning system.

Some of the activities CARE Sudan used to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic formed part of an ongoing health, water and sanitation project in the same area. “We requested for minimum reprogramming because the COVID-19 response did not require a major change from the original plan. Most of the activities in the original project are life-saving. Mass awareness campaigns and group discussions were part of our hygiene promotion in the initial project. We only changed the approach so as to observe social distancing,” explained CARE Sudan Programme Director Eatizaz Mohamed Yousif.

The new approach seems to be helping the community. “I kept hearing about corona (COVID-19), but I did not believe it was real until the day I joined the training of community volunteers. After the first session, I started to wash my hands for 40 seconds at a time, as I was taught in the training,” said Huda Ahmed, a community volunteer in the locality of Rashad.

Amna Mohamed Taha, a community member in the same locality who also received training from CARE, noted that the training helped her to realize that she was putting herself and her family in danger because of improper handwashing. “We now wash our hands multiple times each day as we are taking corona seriously now,” she said.

Since CARE is the only partner receiving the early SHF funding for COVID-19 interventions in South Kordofan State, the organization will work closely with the State Ministry of Health and other health partners to ensure that all health facilities receive information, education and communication materials, personal protective equipment and surgical face masks. For face masks that will be used by non-medical staff and community volunteers, CARE is partnering with a social enterprise supporting women and youth to sew reusable and washable masks.

Mr. Osman underscored that the organization’s life-saving programmes were not interrupted by the pandemic because it activated its business continuity plan when the Government of Sudan announced containment measures and restricted inter-state movement.

The plan included taking all essential supplies to the project sites and prepositioning spare parts for boreholes. Local technicians were trained to carry out minor repair and maintenance works as part of implementation of the overall project.

“We don’t anticipate significant disruptions in this regard more than what we face now due to fuel shortage. For nutrition, we will continue with the facility-level treatment services and active case findings through the trained community nutrition volunteers based on our plan,” said Mr. Osman.

CARE Sudan Country Director El Fateh Osman. Credit: CARE International/Sara Azhari

For OCHA’s Country-based Pooled Funds (CBPFs), NGOs such as CARE Sudan are key partners in the COVID-19 response and reaching people in need. Many of the 18 funds have long-standing partnerships with national and international NGOs, which has made it easy to come together and prioritize funding. 

CBFPs have been critical instruments in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and channelling resources to where they are most needed. So far, $99 million has been allocated to support efforts across 12 countries, with more than half of that amount going directly to NGOs. Additional countries are being identified under the Global Humanitarian Response Fund.

The latest information on funding and allocations is available in real time via: https://pfbi.unocha.org/COVID19/.