Sudana's Thamarat Family Support Programme aims to ease poverty crisis

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Sudana's Thamarat Family Support Programme aims to ease poverty crisis

Magda Ahmed, Sudanese mother of orphan children who applied for the Thamarat Family Support ProgramThamarat Family Support Program in South Khartoum on April 26, 2021 holds a bowl of food at the Museum of Faith in Sudan.ReUTERS El-Tayeb Siddig

For Intisar Altayib, who ekes out a living drawing henna tattoos in Sudan, soaring prices in Khartoum mean cutting down on evening tabs at local stores and running up on defecation during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

She is one of millions struggling through an economic crisis that has deepened as Sudan tries to emerge from decades of isolation and conflict.Inflation has risen to more than 340% and there are shortages of everything from power to medicines.

To ease the pain of the reforms, the government has launched a basic subsidy scheme that aims to provide a temporary $5 financial monthly income to 80% of its population of 43 million.

The rollout, which started in February, is a test for the transitional civilian-military partnership that is due to govern Sudan until 2023.Many Sudanese complain that they have not seen the benefits of an uprising, which has been triggered by the deteriorating economy, that overthrew former president Omar al-Bashir two years ago.

Altayib, who has registered for the welfare program but is yet to receive money, says that in her neighbourhood of Al Kalakla, the prices are four or five times higher than a year ago and her family has all but stopped buying meat.

The increase in the fuel price has put public transport beyond reach.Ramadan is expensive, we have to rely on God, she said.

The family support program came about as the government pursues an international reform program also monitored by the International Monetary Fund to win relief on at least $50 billion dollars in debt and access funds from aggressive lenders.

The ongoing reforms included a sharp devaluation of the euro in February and tariff cuts over the second half of last year.In an October report on the reforms, the IMF said that they could lead to economic contraction, higher inflation and social tensions in short term.

The family income scheme, called Thamarat or the Sudan Family Support ProgrammeSudan Family Support Programme, is an effort to soften the blow, officials say.

From November to January, a survey of more than 3,000 families in Sudan showed that 30% were uninsured of the essentials like bread and milk, with prices increase worsened by the COVID 19 pandemic, said Milena Stefanova, country manager for the World Bank.

The start of the support program was pushed back to mid-February because donors conditioned the release of funds they pledged last year on the closing of the gap between the public and black market exchange rates.

The delay in implementing the program reduces its impact because of the racing inflation in Khartoum, said Mohammed al-Jak, Professor of Economics at the University of Sudan.

Sudan has received $820 million from the World Bank and the donors countries for the first two phases of the programme, which aim to cover 24 million people in 12 states for six months, says the World Bank.

The programme is not yet funded to reach the remainder of the planned 32.5 million or for a potential extension of the payments to a year.

Several beneficiaries told Reuters that they would use the money to pay off debts, or pay back rent or home maintenance.However, Intisar said that the money would not make a huge dent in her daily expenses and would be more useful for her family if she saved it up and started a business.

This amount has an impact, especially in Ramadan. He said Mohamed Aldai, a day laborer who lives in the Id Hussein area and said his family of six received 11,400 Sudanese pounds.

In March and April, payments of 84,028 families were made, reports the World Bank.The government estimates family size at about five, and each member is entitled to a monthly payment in local currency of $5.

The government is now hoping to use the program to implement a permanent social safety net for the poorest million families, said Magdi Amin, senior advisor in the Ministry of Finance of Sudan.

Amin Saleh, an undersecretary in the Finance Ministry, says that delayed payments until now are due to issues with verifying data and setting up transfers.

People are struggling, we can't afford to buy anything, said Arafa Mohamed, a housewife in Al Kalakla.

We’ve been waiting since they told us about this money, and we have been waiting all day in Ramadan.

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