Across Sudan, community networks advocate for and lead local development. Experienced, equipped and energized, they’re tackling COVID-19.

 

A trusted voice is essential in an emergency. Doors are more likely to open, and advice listened to.

In a country where infrastructure may be limited, and groups like refugees or the urban poor are historically vulnerable, strong local leadership can bridge the gap – advocating for needs, addressing conflict, and managing projects and resources. 

Read more: Sudan’s #COVID19 community fighters protecting health

For years, support from numerous donors has allowed UNDP Sudan to establish 150+ community management committees (CMCs), peace committees, natural resource groups, police networks, volunteer groups, and other similar organizations across 12 states to do exactly that.

Thousands of bottles of soap and hand sanitizer have been distributed safely to communities across Sudan.

Now, trusted voices with years of coordination experience, these groups and leaders are mobilizing to protect their communities against COVID-19.

“We have a great responsibility towards our community, especially with regard to their health,” said Fadlalla Mohamed Gabriel, head of a community network in White Nile, describing the importance of local outreach including youth, women, and religious leaders.

Equipped with soap, sanitizer, masks, megaphones (for physically distant briefings), poster-plastered cars, flyers and social media content, these networks are delivering essential health and hygiene supplies and advice. Sharing Federal Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF information, they are also training people on correct hygiene techniques – like mask use and handwashing.

Community members in White Nile distributing posters, soap, antiseptic, and cleaning products in a local hospital.

Read: Soap makers clean up in Sudan’s COVID-19 response & Protecting Sudan’s prisons

Coordinating with health authorities and partners, UNDP-supported committees and networks are operating in eight languages, ensuring at at-risk groups - like internally displaced persons, refugees and migrants -  aren’t left behind.

In Khartoum’s impoverished Mayo district, 60,000 people were safely provided information or supplies door-to-door, at gathering places, and facilities like police stations.

In Darfur and elsewhere, local networks canvassed local hubs – government offices, prisons, water points, courts, markets, IDP camps, and justice and human rights centers. It was also an opportunity for some committees to financially support the response, with a number contributing to purchase supplies.

“This assistance is possible due to the flexibility of our international partners,” said UNDP Sudan’s Resident Representative Selva Ramachandran, “this has allowed communities to tackle quickly COVID-19 and meet pressing health needs.”

Spread across Sudan, support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Governments of Norway and the Netherlands, the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and Italian Development Cooperation has allowed community networks to connect with urban populations, rural settlements, temporary refugee and displaced people camps, and conflict-impacted areas.

Efforts in Darfur have been significantly enhanced by a partnership between UNAMID and UN agencies under the framework of the State Liaison Function (SLF). This has provided US$1.9m of dedicated funds for health and hygiene supplies, medical equipment and health system improvements – and ensuring much needed information is shared with at-risk communities.

Naturally, the work is not without challenges. Ensuring safe behavior, sourcing fuel during shortages, overcoming COVID-19 skepticism, briefing illiterate citizens, and reaching remote groups are just some of the hurdles to overcome.

But, having previously led and supported their communities, protecting health is a natural role for these local advocates.

Network members briefing villages in South Darfur and Blue Nile. Megaphones and radios are critical tools to provide safe briefings during the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

Key facts:

  • Across Sudan, UNDP has previously established 150+ Community Management Committees (CMCs), peace committees, farming, resource and water management groups, paralegal and judge networks, youth and police volunteers, and other similar structures
  • Together these groups are working in Khartoum State, White Nile, Blue Nile, South Kordofan, West Kordofan, Sennar, Kassala and all of Darfur’s five states supporting COVID-19 response
  • Combined, these groups have reached tens of thousands of Sudanese citizens, refugees and migrants, distributing thousands of flyers and posters, and health and hygiene supplies. Community members have gone door-to-door, visited markets, mosques, jails, police stations and a range of other facilities
  • Safety was a priority for community outreach – volunteers often had to address poor health behaviors – with extensive briefing, masks, gloves and sanitizing products provided

 

Due to the rapid-response nature of this activity, numerous generous partners have provided their support across a number of UNDP projects. Support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Governments of Norway and the Netherlands, the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and Italian Development Cooperation has been reallocated to address the COVID-19 response. Additionally, UNAMID’s State Liaison Function (SLF) has contributed significant funds to COVID-19 response efforts in Darfur.

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