Coronavirus: the invisible killer in Sudan’s Darfur region

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A village in Southern Darfur, Sudan. Photo: Chansey

According to health ministry figures only a couple of hundred people have been infected by the Covid-19 coronavirus in Sudan’s Darfur region but reports from this remote and troubled part of the country tell a different story.

For several weeks now, unusually large numbers of people have been dying. Many of those who fall ill have typical symptoms of coronavirus but there’s little or no follow-up by the authorities.

Nationwide, Sudan has 6,879 recorded cases — more than 5,000 of them in and around the capital, Khartoum — though even the health minister has acknowledged that they don’t reflect the true extent of the problem.

Darfur is home to around 1.6 million displaced people. Malnourishment and disease is widespread but local doctors blame most of the current increase in sickness on the coronavirus.

Last month 52 members of the UNAMID peacekeeping mission at a logistics base in North Darfur were quarantined after two of them tested positive.

The Darfur region covers an area the size of Spain and the risk of epidemics is high. Several factors make prevention, detection and treatment of disease more difficult, as a report from the Associated Press explains.

In the displacement camps and many villages basic hygiene — such as regular handwashing — and social distancing is difficult to maintain. “At Abushouk camp, each bathroom is shared by dozens of people. Around the territory, markets and mosques — along with a growing number of funerals — continue to draw crowds,” AP’s report says.

Some also doubt the virus is real, viewing it as a conspiracy to “keep people in their homes where the old regime can come and kill them.”

For those who fall ill there’s little point in seeking medical help — Darfur has only one health facility for every 15,000 people. “Residents in rural areas must travel long distances to reach one,” AP reports. “Doctors say quarantine centres have no more than a few dozen beds, two or three ventilators and cheap gowns and surgical masks for protection equipment.”

Testing capacity is very limited, too. “Before a new testing centre opened this month in Nyala, South Darfur, testing was centralised in one laboratory in the capital, Khartoum, which processes just around 270 samples each day. Health workers in Darfur say that results can take a week to come through.”

Further information:
Covid-19 in Sudan
Previous Middle East updates
Covid-19 statistics for Middle East

Middle East updates

New cases

A further 14,778 Covid-19 infections have been reported in the Middle East and North Africa since yesterday’s update.

Saudi Arabia reported the region’s biggest day-on-day increase with 3,921 new cases.

Tunisia reported six new cases after eight days without any. Five were returnees from abroad who had been quarantined. The sixth was a contact of a person previously known to be infected.

The list below shows cumulative totals (excluding Iran) since the outbreak began, with day-on-day increases in brackets.

Algeria 10,698 (+109)
Bahrain 17,713 (+444)
Egypt 41,303 (+1,577)
Iraq 17,770 (+1,095)
Israel 18,876 (+175)
Jordan 915 (+25)
Kuwait 34,952 (+520)
Lebanon 1,422 (+20)
Libya 409 (+16)
Morocco 8,683 (+146)
Oman 22,077 (+2,123)
Palestine 669 (+2)
Qatar 76,588 (+1,517)
Saudi Arabia 119,942 (+3,921)
Sudan 6,879 (+149)
Syria 170 (+6)
Tunisia 1,093 (+6)
UAE 41,499 (+513)
Yemen 636 (+45)

TOTAL: 422,294 (+12,409)

Note: Yemen’s total includes four cases reported by the unrecognised Houthi government in the north of the country. Palestine’s total includes East Jerusalem.

Death toll

A further 248 coronavirus-related deaths were reported in the region yesterday — 75 of them in Iran and 45 in Egypt.

The list below shows cumulative totals in the region outside Iran, with day-on-day increases in brackets.

Algeria 751 (+10)
Bahrain 36 (-)
Egypt 1,422 (+45)
Iraq 496 (+39)
Israel 300 (-)
Jordan 9 (-)
Kuwait 285 (+6)
Lebanon 31 (-)
Libya 6 (+1)
Morocco 212 (+1)
Oman 99 (+10)
Palestine 5 (-)
Qatar 70 (+1)
Saudi Arabia 893 (+36)
Sudan 433 (+20)
Syria 6 (-)
Tunisia 49 (-)
UAE 287 (+1)
Yemen 140 (+3)

TOTAL: 5,530 (+173)

Note: Yemen’s total includes one death reported by the unrecognised Houthi government in the north of the country.

CLICK HERE for previous updates

Originally published at https://al-bab.com.

Former Middle East editor of the Guardian. Website: www.al-bab.com. Author of 'Arabs Without God'.

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