Translated by: Dr. Belgees Fagier

Khartoum, 11-4- 2023 (SUNA) - Poverty is one of the most gravest issues societies suffer from, especially in developing countries and least developed countries. Sudan is one of those countries despite its great potentials and resources. However, there are many factors that led to the failure to benefit from these resources, which contributed to the exacerbation of poverty. Many institutions moved to find solutions to this problem, which threatens social stability.

In this context, Sudan News Agency (SUNA) conducted an interview with the Commissioner of the Commission of Social Protection and Poverty Reduction Izzal-Din al-Safi to highlight  on role and performance of the Commission and the obstacles it faces in reducing poverty:-

Following are excerpts from the interview:-

QUESTION: The concept of social security has remained unclear. What is the difference between social protection and social security, and what are aspects of overlapping between them?

ANSWER: Social protection and social security are all meanings of terms that involve social protection for all, and we as a state are concerned with providing various services for social protection for people from cradle to grave. We have programs that target pregnant women from the age of the child two months until it reaches thousand days, also when the citizen reaches the age of retirement, we have social insurance. Social security aims to improve the livelihoods of the poorest families and how to secure their lives. Here, there are interventions, policies, and legislation on how to get the poor out of the circle of poverty into the circle of production.  Social security also provides social protection, but by means that the citizen may contribute to, such as the pension, which provides social security, but the citizen contributes to it with part of his salary to provide a specific service. Likewise, health insurance is a social security, but it includes a contribution from the Ministry of Finance for poor families to receive health services.

QUESTION: How many families that were covered and what are the aspects of disbursement and the budget for next year?

ANSWER: The Commission has programs that target the poorest families. Part of the programs is cash support funded by the Ministry of Finance. In the past year, we reached more than 200,000 families with cash transfers amounting to about SDG4, 000, 000, 000, which represented less than 40 % of the budget approved by the Ministry of Finance in the year 2022 for cash transfers amounted to about SDG14,000,000,000.

QUESTION: What are the most prominent projects planned by the Commission and its contribution to achieving social protection and alleviating poverty for this year?

ANSWER: We have a mother and child support package project implemented in eastern Sudan. This project is called (mother and child cash transfer) targeting 50,000 pregnant women in the states of Kassala and the Red Sea through technical support from UNICEF and funding from Germany.

QUESTION: To what extent does political stability, as well as the security situation, contribute to aggravation of poverty?

ANSWER: Sudan abounds with huge natural resources, and the main reason for not exploiting these resources is the political instability. Therefore, we did not benefit from globalization and the technology that has spread all over the world in managing our natural resources. We have missed a large number of opportunities. We hope that there will be a political agreement and political stability so that we can all devote ourselves to rebuilding what was destroyed by the war and contribute to transforming Sudan into a stable state.

QUESTION: There is a lot of talk by organizations about food insecurity in Sudan, especially in conflict areas. In your opinion, what are the applied standards and do they match yours? How much is the poverty rate estimated among Sudanese families in these areas?

ANSWER: So far, we do not have accurate statistics on poverty rates in Sudan. The last study or survey of poverty   was made in 2009, 2011 and 2014 was a treatment of projections, but until the same year 2014 the survey indicated that more than 65% of Sudanese were estimated to be below the poverty line.

The United Nations World Food Program in the year 2022 warned  that 14,000,000 Sudanese suffer from severe food shortages, and therefore this is a very large percentage, even though we have 225,000,000 acres  of arable lands, of which only 25% is exploited. Therefore, it is illogical for Sudan and the Sudanese citizen to suffer from food shortages. This is unjustified and illogical.

QUESTION: How do you encourage the private sector to contribute to poverty reduction programs? Are there models for the private sector's contribution in this field?

ANSWER: The role of the private sector is very important, and here comes the role of the Commission in coordinating efforts related to linking the private sector with the public sector and the foreign organizations working in the field of poverty eradication. I think social responsibility obliges private companies and sector to at least 5% of their revenue go to social protection programs and social responsibility, to reduce poverty rates.

As it is known that the activities of companies and factories have environmental, social and economic effects, which also affect the citizen, and therefore it is the duty of the private sector to allocate 5% to 12% for social responsibility in order to mitigate the negative effects resulting from various businesses.

We have a program in which the private sector, the United Nations and the government may contribute. It is a large program that we called the Accelerators. Now we are preparing for it. It may be a program for the government to reduce poverty by the year 2030. I mean, we are talking that by 2030 our vision is that poverty will be at least reduced to 30 % This is possible only with concerted efforts of the various official government levels, the private sector and the United Nations.

QUESTION: Who are the Commission's partners and what are its funding sources?

ANSWER: The main sources of funding are the Ministry of Finance, in addition to organizations. We have some projects funded directly by the Ministry of Finance, for example, the cash support program that targets the poorest families, and the microfinance program. This program is also funded by the Zakat Bureau and the Ministry of Finance, which helps transform the poor into producers. Likewise, in the past year, we implemented more than six water stations operating with solar energy in a number of states of Sudan, also with full funding from the Ministry of Finance through a program called the Comprehensive Development Program.

Therefore, our funding in the previous period came from the Ministry of Finance, but also the World Bank from Sudan’s partners, with whom we implemented the project to support Sudanese families (Thamrat), in which we reached more than 415,000 families with cash transfers also came from with the support of donors, and therefore the funds are in partnership between the Ministry of Finance (Government of Sudan and donors).

QUESTION: What are the biggest challenges facing the Commission and preventing it from achieving its desired goals?

ANSWER: The commission is newly established and was a center for poverty reduction, but in 2018 the decision was issued to upgrade it to a commission, and the institutional structure of the commission is still in its final stages, but the challenges remain are the shortage of funding.


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