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Nine million in Sudan need humanitarian assistance: UN

Khartoum,At least nine million people in Sudan urgently need humanitarian assistance in what could compound the economic situation of a country struggling to sustain a transitional government.

The latest situational report from UN relief agencies shows the global body with partners have only been able to serve half of this number, citing local challenges.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Khartoum said the number of people in need of aid in Sudan during the current year increased to 9.3 million, compared to 5.4 million in 2015.

In a bulletin, OCHA’s local office in Khartoum said by end of last year, an estimated 8.5 million required relief aid.

The announcement comes just as Sudan fights an economic crisis that has seen a deficit of about $1.6 billion and an inflation that has seen the cost of basic commodities rise every month.

This not entirely the cause of the transitional government now under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok though. His administration, supposed to be in transition for the next 30 months, inherited an economic crisis from the regime of Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled last April.

One of the controversial policies was the national subsidy programme, worth about $300 million every year and meant to cushion the poor from economic shocks.

Hamdok admitted that the programme has instead cushioned the rich, exposing the poor to more inflation.

To remove or amend the subsidies, however, remains a debate and Khartoum was expected to hold a national dialogue forum this month to determine an appropriate decision. Officials still admit the subsidy has provided some form of respite politically, calming a restive public.

“There is a direct relationship between the programme and support for the peace process,” Sudanese Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Badawi told reporters recently.

“Peace building is closely related to economic stability, which will reshape the relationship between the government and the citizen and restore the social contract to Sudan,” he added.

Most of those in need of humanitarian assistance are in conflict-hit regions like Darfur and the southern border with South Sudan, where several South Sudanese refugees had crossed over.

But with a bad economy, an expensive dollar and high cost of goods, it may mean everyone, including those in Khartoum, require support.

The UN said some of the programmes this year may include resettling internally displaced people and improving conditions of their areas, rather than simply providing basic food and medicines.

PM Hamdok said he had submitted an official request to the UN to also assist in implementing requirements that would re-establish a new government after the transition.

Those requirements include ironing out peace deals with rebel groups in the south west, providing economic stimulus programmes, supporting political transition such as passing new legal frameworks, and organising an all-people-participating election.

The election is to be held 30 months from last August.

By The Eastafrica

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