The Sudan strangled by a shortage of drugs at the time of the coronavirus

Le Soudan étranglé par une pénurie de médicaments à l'heure du coronavirus

KHARTOUM | In the middle of the battle against the pandemic COVID-19, the Sudanese, are facing a shortage of medicines in a country whose economy is out of breath, after 30 years of disastrous management under the now-deposed president Omar el-Bashir.

“It’s been three days that I try medication,” says, the dejected, Abdel Aziz Adam, a young asthmatic in search of ventoline in Khartoum.

Abdel Aziz Othmane, in which the pharmacy is located near the largest hospital in the country, think him to abandon his trade.

“We lack all the essential (…) and each day, new types of medicines are exhausted”, he says. Others have already “put the key under the door”.

The economic crisis inherited from three decades of authoritarian rule under Omar el-Bashir — deposed in April 2019 under the pressure of the street, has provoked a fall in imports of medicines, compounded by the health crisis.

“Sudan needs to import the equivalent of 48 million euros (73.5 million $) of medication each month, ( … ), since the beginning of the year, we imported only for 8 million euros (12,25 million $) “, explains Jalal Mohamed Ahmed, head of a company of import of pharmaceutical products.

Industry in slow motion

According to a report released in march by the Office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (Ocha), “Sudan had imported 325 million euros ($497 million $) number of medications in 2019”, is $ 122 million less than in 2017, after a slight improvement in 2018.

The crisis of the sars coronavirus has only served to accentuate the trend, especially with the closure of the borders, pushing pharmacies to close. The country has recorded nearly 8 900 cases, of which approximately 550 deaths, according to official figures.

After a recession in 2019 (-2,5 %), the Sudan is expected to record a further contraction of its economy (-8 %) in 2020, according to the international monetary Fund.

The country also has to contend with rising prices skyrocketing, a huge public debt and low foreign currency reserves.

This last element plays a major role in the shortage.

Since independence in 2011 South Sudan, whose oil production was a source of wealth for Khartoum, the inflows of foreign currency have fallen.

“Previously, the Bank of Sudan provided us dollars, but it has stopped and the crisis of the sars coronavirus has aggravated the situation with the closure of airports,” adds Mr. Othmane.

According to him, the importers have to obtain foreign currency on the black market, which makes imports more expensive as the government imposes a fixed price for the drugs.

Khartoum is still on the black list of the u.s. state sponsors of terrorism, which blocks foreign investment, international aid, and complicating the import.

Therefore, a large part of the importing companies are at the stop and on the 27 pharmaceutical factories in sudan that contributes to almost 45% of the needs of the country, only 19 are still functioning, according to the ministry of Industry and Trade.

Local Initiatives

Enraged, the central committee of the pharmacists in the Sudan has organized on Sunday a partial strike, widely followed.

Member of the association of professional sudanese (PSA), fer-de-lance of the protest movement at the origin of the fall of Omar el-Bashir, the committee of pharmacists is a large part of the profession.

“We reaffirm that there can be no concession or compromise on citizens ‘right to health”, has hammered the committee in its call for the strike, a few days after handing in a memorandum on this subject to the prime minister of the transitional government, Abdallah Hamdok.

In this context, flammable, initiatives to address shortages and health crisis is growing.

To Chambat, north of the capital, Amal Tajeldin, a doctor, founded a medical centre which are welcomed by patients who struggle to receive care and necessary medication.

“We asked the inhabitants to bring us the surplus of the medications they had at home, and through other donations, in particular, we have opened a pharmacy within the hospital emergency department where we work as volunteers,” says the practitioner.

In order to stop the pandemic, Ms. Tajeldin adds that “masks and gel manufactured locally by pharmacists volunteers” are sold in the center, at “a symbolic price”.

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