By the end of June, Sudan had recorded 9,000 cases of Covid-19 and 572 deaths. The first official case of the virus was confirmed on 13th March, in the capital Khartoum. As a result, the Sudanese Government introduced travel and operations restrictions. In response, GOAL has adapted many of its programs to continue operations in the new context of Covid-19.
In late May, a surge in cases in the North Darfur region was detected. Although testing in this region remains poor, there are fears that there could be a severe outbreak in what is one of the most vulnerable and conflict-ridden regions of Africa.
GOAL has been responding to humanitarian and development needs in Sudan since 1985, operating in North Darfur and South Kordofan. GOAL has adapted its existing programmes to respond to the outbreak of Covid-19 and maintain operations despite local and national restrictions. The North Darfur region is home to the most vulnerable in Sudan due to the decades long conflict that has ravaged the region and its infrastructure. GOAL has focused its disease control efforts here as an outbreak in Darfur would be especially devastating.
The Government of Sudan has recognized the importance of continued humanitarian operations to address the crisis, and GOAL has remained operational ensuring that essential health care and nutrition services are continued, working closely with the Ministry of Health.
Sudan has a weak health system, and in the Darfur region it is even weaker due to infrastructure damage caused by war. Therefore disease prevention is essential in combatting Covid-19 to ensure the limited healthcare capacity is not overwhelmed.
GOAL has engaged in local information campaigns to raise awareness of the threats of Covid-19, and is educating people on best prevention practices e.g hand washing, social distancing, and recognising COVID-19 symtoms.
With support from USAID/OFDA GOAL has reached more than 175,378 (85,935 males; 89,443 females) people in North Darfur and South Kordofan States in Sudan with vital COVID-19 prevention messaging since the pandemic was declared in March.
Community Led Action (CLA)
Central to GOAL’s response has been the Community-Led Action (CLA) approach, developed by GOAL and successfully used to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. This evidence-based approach puts communities at the centre of the fight against the spread of disease, empowering them to take their own actions.
Amongst those reached by GOAL were 30,226 (14,810 males; 15,416 females) internally displaced people in Kassab and Fata Borno camps in North Darfur State, people most vulnerable to COVID-19 as they live in crowded settings with inadequate sanitation and waste management facilities.
GOAL facilitated CLA sessions with community mobilizers and leaders, guiding them on best practice to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a result of this intervention most households have set up handwashing facilities with soap and water, and are limiting visitors to their compounds, ensuring those that do visit wash their hands and maintain a social distance.
In addition to the IDP camps, GOAL continues to roll out its CLA activities in other rural areas of North Darfur and in South Kordofan State where it is engaging with communities. As well as direct contact with communities GOAL is using mobile units to drive through areas to communicate preventive measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, GOAL was supporting 23 primary healthcare services in North Darfur and South Kordofan.
GOAL has adapted its programming to ensure all the health facilities it supports in Sudan achieve a basic level of Infection Prevention & Control (IPC). All health care staff are now trained, while the health facilities have been provided with handwashing facilities and soap.
At the waiting areas, patients are taught to spread out to keep physical distancing while seated. The health staff have now incorporated COVID-19 preventative messages into the routine health messages shared at triage. This continues to further strengthen the risk communication with the all the patients and community members coming to the health facilities for consultation and other services.
GOAL is committed to ensuring that all community members visiting the health facilities are receiving proper, accurate and relevant messaging on the COVID-19 virus.
GOAL received rapid response kits from USAID/OFDA through WHO, which ensured that target health facilities maintained essential health care service provision to the communities.
Water and Hygiene
In addition to all this, GOAL is supporting communities to maintain personal hygiene through its WASH (Water Access Sanitation and Hygiene) programmes. Washing hands is an essential component in the fight against Covid-19. GOAL is the only NGO providing integrated WASH services in Kutum and Al Waha areas of North Darfur. These services support 17 healthcare facilities and have ensured access to water for over 180,000 vulnerable and internally displaced people.
Despite the challenges and dangers posed by Covid-19, our team on the ground in Sudan is continuing to operate to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people from this virus. They combine local knowledge and GOAL’s experience in disease control based on our efforts combatting Ebola in West Africa in 2014 to prevent the spread of Covid-19.