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GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - The United Nations reports the presence of the coronavirus in Sudan is forcing a radical change in the way humanitarian aid and services are being delivered to millions of people in need of assistance. The World Health Organization confirms 10 cases of COVID-19, including two deaths, in Sudan.
In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Sudan, the government in Kinshasa and U.N. agencies are implementing a series of social distancing measures. They include an overnight curfew, the closure of schools and staff reductions in some key government offices.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports 9.2 million people in Sudan need humanitarian aid, including nearly 3 million refugees and internally displaced people. New ways of delivering aid are being implemented to protect them, as well as international aid workers, from becoming infected by this deadly virus.
For example, OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke said two to three months of food rations will be distributed at one time to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the frequency of large gatherings of people.
"To reduce possible risks of exposing malnourished children, there will be an increase in the supply of ready-to-use therapeutic food, which will reduce the frequency of visits by health staff in nutrition centers. Also, new guidelines and procedures are being developed to make sure that health workers can continue to deliver immunization, nutritional supplements, and maintain infant and young child feeding programs in this new reality," he said.
Gender-based violence is a big problem in Sudan and likely to worsen as the humanitarian crisis deepens. In keeping with the new social-distancing policy, Laerke told VOA that various activities involving large gatherings of people have been suspended. These include training workshops and meetings on gender violence awareness.
"However, and that is important, of course, individual case management and individual counseling and referrals, for example to health facilities and what they call GBV - gender-based violence - confidential corner services, so where women can speak in confidence to counselors, that continues," he said.
There is limited information on the exact number of sexual and gender-based violence cases across Sudan. However, a 2014 survey suggests 34% of women aged 15 to 49 are victims of domestic violence.
The U.N. reports very few clinical and specialized psychosocial support and counseling services are available in Sudan to help victims of rape and other forms of sexual and domestic abuse.