Khartoum's Healthcare Systems in Critical Condition

Sudan is struggling to provide hospital beds, drugs and medical oxygen to COVID-19 patients hit by a third wave of infections that is straining the country’s patchy healthcare system beyond what it can cope with. With a population of over 40 million, Sudan has recorded 33,000 cases and over 2,600 deaths since the start of the pandemic, but officials say the real numbers are likely to be much higher given low rates of testing. In recent weeks, an acute shortage of oxygen, partly due to power cuts that impeded production at the country’s main plant, has left hospitals unable to provide adequate care to desperately ill COVID patients. Social media is awash with desperate pleas for help from relatives seeking beds, drugs and oxygen cylinders for their loved ones. Officials say about 300 ventilators are available in the country, a number that is nowhere near what would be needed to respond to the current emergency. A government study showed 38% of oxygen cylinders had been smuggled out of the health system for certain patients to use at home. Some patients bribed hospital staff for the cylinders, while others relied on personal relationships. The shortage of oxygen and wider failings of the health system are a symptom of a deep malaise in Sudan, which has been stuck in an economic crisis for years.

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