Despite this, Kenneth reports that communities themselves are struggling to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously. People in the area are simply confronted with so many challenges that COVID-19 is not regarded as the biggest risk to their lives.
“Few people have stopped shaking hands or started wearing face masks.”
Complicating matters, West Darfur borders with Chad and many communities straddle the two countries.
“Officially the border is closed to limit the spread of COVID-19, but there are hundreds of crossing points. Many families pass daily into the neighbouring country to fetch water or do shopping.”
With rumours abounding of cases of COVID-19 in the IDP camps in Chad, the porous border makes the difficult task of controlling the spread of the virus even more challenging.
Concern staff find themselves caught between two worlds. When in the office and while doing fieldwork, they must wear masks and are observing strict handwashing and social distancing requirements as they go about their work to mitigate against COVID-19. However, at home and in their neighbourhood, it is as if nothing has changed and it is difficult for them to maintain distance from others in the community.
With support from Irish Aid, our team is working to tackle this through an awareness-raising project which includes the distribution of information leaflets and posters on COVID-19. Community volunteers who usually help to screen for malnutrition have become COVID-19 awareness champions – taking information on how to protect against the virus to their villages using megaphones and drama. And instead of conducting mass screenings for malnutrition, our volunteers now immediately refer any suspected cases of malnutrition to the local health facility. This is just one of many adaptations Kenneth and the rest of the team have made to ensure the vital nutrition programming they have been doing can continue. Other adaptations include increasing the supply of the therapeutic food used to treat malnutrition to monthly, instead of weekly stocks, thereby reducing the need for people to attend the facility.
According to the 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Sudan, West Darfur is classified as suffering from crisis levels of food insecurity, with 21% of people not having access to enough food, so it is vital that our nutrition work can continue to tackle the high rates of malnutrition in the area. This nutrition work is targeted not just at people living in the town of El Geneina but also for the residents of the many IDP camps located on the outskirts, as is the case with all of Concern’s programming in the region. Program Director for Concern Sudan, Eva Sztacho, explains.