Four COVID-19 cases confirmed in eastern Sudan camp for Ethiopian refugees

The first Ethiopians fleeing the war in Tigray arrive in El Gedaref (Social media)

Four COVID-19 cases were confirmed and are in isolation in the Um Rakouba refugee camp in eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref on Tuesday. 63 close contacts have been identified and quarantined, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The international Mercy Corps organisation which is running a health clinic in the Um Rakuba camp, called for swift and urgent additional measures “to prevent further transmission and avoid another humanitarian disaster”. 

El Gedaref Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Sudanese government’s Commissioner for Refugees (COR) are leading the response with support from the UNHCR and its partners.

Um Rakouba and Tunaydba camps reached maximum capacity at the start of this year, hosting about 25,000 people who fled the civil war in neighbouring Tigray in Ethiopia and crossed the border into eastern Sudan. As of yesterday, OCHA has recorded 26,864 refugees in the camps, with 20,572 people in Um Rakouba and 6,292 people in Tunaydba. The UNHCR and COR have registered over 58,612 Ethiopian refugees in the country so far.

Dr Arif Noor, Mercy Corps Country Director for Sudan, said: “The area is small but with a high population density, making social distancing very difficult. We don’t have sufficient PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to manage suspect cases. There’s a shortage of water, soap, and latrines so camp residents must wait hours to get water each day, in lines rarely shorter than 30 individuals long, increasing the chances of spreading the virus.”

Concern over a lack of preparedness at the camp to deal with a large-scale outbreak remains very high, according to the director. “We’re currently ramping up efforts to deliver PPE to the camp and enhance measures already taken to prevent further spread and save lives,” he said.

Khartoum cases

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health in Khartoum state reported 702 new COVID-19 cases since Sunday, of which 216 were recorded “over the past 24 hours”. 22 patients died.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Sudan in March last year, 19,104 coronavirus cases have been registered in the Sudanese capital, with a prevalence rate of 21.5 per cent.

The director of the Khartoum Ministry of Health, Mahjoub Menoufeli, who presented the periodic report at the Coronavirus Emergency Centre on Thursday, said that Khartoum locality continued to record the highest rates among the state’s localities. The locality, covering downtown Khartoum and neighbouring districts south of the city centre, recorded 5,933 cases.

The El Gezira Ministry of Health reported 17 new coronavirus patients on Thursday. In neighbouring Sennar, one new case was registered in Singa locality, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases since March last year to 385.

In River Nile state, eight new cases were registered on Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 285. The South Darfur Ministry of Health reported two new cases of COVID-19 in the state capital Nyala, bringing the total number of cases to 69 cases.

Since January 1, the Sudanese Ministry of Health has not published any country-wide reports about the number of cases of COVID-19. Cases and death reports are being published by individual states regularly.

International support

The Ambassador of Norway, Theresa Lukin, told federal Health Minister Osama Abdelrahim in a meeting on Thursday that her country will provide support to Sudan through the WHO to strengthen the national response to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the meeting, they discussed Covid-19 vaccine developments, as well as the health situation in the Darfur region, maternal and child health, and the ministry’s role to support basic health services in connection with the national effort to protect civilians following the withdrawal of UNAMID in less than six months’ time.

A delegation of Saudi doctors from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre arrived in Khartoum on Friday, to help 16,500 people in the fight against blindness.

The campaign targets more than 16,500 beneficiaries, during which the volunteer medical team will examine 15,000 cases and do surgical operations for 1,200 patients, with the distribution of 3,000 medical glasses and medicines for patients and cases that do not require surgical intervention. Awliya. He said that the campaign targets families and individuals with limited income who cannot cover the costs of their treatment.


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