Working Sudanese unable to make ends meet as economy founders

Rising costs of transport, food, and basic commodities are putting immense pressure on Sudanese consumers, as the Sudanese Pound continues to waiver against major international currencies. Increasing reports of deaths from malnutrition and starvation are filtering through from across the country, confirming a food crisis that has been repeatedly highlighted by aid organisations.

The US Dollar is selling for SDG578 on the Khartoum parallel market today, while it is still around SDG447 according to the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS).

The Chamber of Transport and Communications in Khartoum has set a new, fixed tariff of SDG25 per kilometre for public transport in the state. People in the Sudanese capital criticised the decision and explained that it will lead to an increase in transportation tariffs by 50 per cent for some lines.

Economic analyst Hafiz Ismail told Radio Dabanga that he expects that this decision is worse than similar instructions before and will most probably not implemented. He said that public transport vehicles already do not comply with official transportation tariffs and are setting the prices higher for some time now, due to the very high operating costs, especially fuel and spare parts.

Basic needs

The Sudanese Teachers’ Committee says that the monthly cost of living for a family of five people is about SDG580,000.

In a report published on its Facebook page earlier this week, the committee said that the monthly costs include rent, water, meals, clothing, electricity, transportation, medical treatment, and education. The research focused on the basic needs only.

The report stated that Sudan lags behind Arab and African countries in the minimum wage, which is $21.50. The average teacher’s salary in Sudan covers 13.3 of the monthly needs of a family, according to the report.

Gamariya Omar, member of the Sudanese Teachers’ Committee, told the Sudan Today programme on Radio Dabanga, that the committee conducts research on the minimum cost of living each year.

Starvation

Reports of deaths from starvation have been emerging Sudan in recent months, highlighting a growing food emergency that is spreading from rural to urban areas.

Almost 12 million people – a quarter of Sudan’s population – are currently estimated to be facing acute hunger. That number could reach up to 18 million as the ‘lean season’ ends this month, according to aid agencies – double the figure recorded in 2021.

Economic and political disorder worsened by an October 2021 coup are contributing to the high levels of need. But conflict, climate shocks, and an exploitative political economy that has long generated hunger are also driving the crisis.

“We have no basic services, and children are dying because of malnutrition,” said Ahmed Adam, from eastern Kassala, which has some of the highest malnutrition rates in Sudan. “We want the government and international organisations to help us.”

Adam, who is 48, spoke from a health clinic in Kassala, which The New Humanitarian visited last month to better understand how hunger is affecting people. His wife was suffering from anaemia, a blood disorder commonly caused by nutritional deficiencies.

Aid agency reports suggest crisis levels of food insecurity will remain high in the months ahead: The next harvest season could be compromised by late planting due to delayed rainfall and surging input costs, while recent flash floods have damaged cropland.

In the past, hunger in Sudan has mainly affected rural populations and war victims who relocated to city fringes. But the current economic crunch – compounded by the Ukraine war – has deepened food insecurity in urban areas too.

“Sudan has faced hunger before, but in the last century it has never faced levels of hunger as widespread, persistent and acute as today,” stated a recent report by the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University.

Abdelrahman Mohamed, a resident of the capital city, Khartoum, is one of many struggling to get by. “Life is impossible with the current living conditions,” he told The New Humanitarian. “There is a lack of fuel, cooking gas, and flour.”

Hasan Mahmoud, a 44-year-old Khartoum plumber, added that incomes can’t keep up with rising prices at local markets. “Living in dignity for the lower class, even the middle class, is nearly impossible,” Mahmoud said in an interview in April.

Several leading Sudan researchers argue that humanitarian aid won’t solve food insecurity. They say change requires structural reforms to a political system that has long seen rulers place their survival above the needs of rural populations.

Sudan’s foreign exchange, for example, mostly comes from exports earnt from rural production. Yet the cash generated has historically funded bread imports for urban dwellers – a more valued constituency for Khartoum than rural sorghum eaters.

Military and political elites have also maintained their rule by waging vicious counterinsurgency campaigns in rebellious peripheries. These wars have led to starvation crimes and the destruction of rural livelihoods.

Decades of displacement have created a pipeline of landless workers who labour on commercial farms around the country. They often don’t have enough money to buy the very food they are producing.

“The deeper crisis is that Sudan’s political economy is structured in an unequal and exploitative manner that generates both widespread chronic hunger and intermittent humanitarian emergency and famine,” stated the Tufts University report.

Source: Radio Dabanga