How has the COVID-19 Pandemic impacted UK Sudanese Communities?

All across the world, lives have been lost, economies have faced recessions, with many people losing their jobs, young people have had to complete their education from home, we’ve seen a dramatic impact on mental health, and inequalities have grown further. With many governments being slow and sometimes ineffective in reacting to the growing challenges, community groups and grassroots organisations have quickly adapted and stepped in to support their community in new and innovative ways, often with little funding. All segments of society have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Sudanese communities are no exception. You get a sense of this when directly speaking with those of Sudanese heritage from diverse background and across generations about the challenges they face in the UK, as well as their families in Sudan.

What is the project about?

At Shabaka, we work towards facilitating diasporas’ role in strengthening humanitarian preparedness, response and recovery through research and advocacy. Which is why we were so excited to receive funding through ATM Resilience Grants, in partnership with Comic Relief and National Emergencies Trust, to deliver a key piece of work that focuses on the Sudanese diaspora community in the UK.

There is an estimated 33,000 people born in Sudan living the UK, however, the data does not include those born in the UK with heritage in the UK, including newly arrived refugees, students and others who have been in the UK for several generations. Yet, their voices are often not heard in policy discussions on dealing with the social and economic ramification of the pandemic. The “Impact of COVID-19 on Sudanese Communities in the UK” is therefore critical in not only amplifying their voices in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to offer viable options on how communities that are dispersed throughout the UK can better coordinate and collaborate on their efforts to support their communities in the UK as well as those back home in Sudan.

With this in mind and to eliminate the issue of groups working in silos, we hope this research gives the different stakeholders, in particular, community organisations and policymakers in Sudan and the UK, a clearer picture of how they we can harness missed opportunities and avoid replication of efforts. Ultimately to bridge gaps where there is currently lack of coordination between different agencies and to explore what needs to be done to coordinate and set in place the systems needed to make efforts more impactful.

The research project will address two main issues:

  1. generating data to help improve understanding of Sudanese community organisations’ work to help their service users deal with the impact of the pandemic here in the UK and their needs; and
  2. identify mechanisms and tools that would support improved coordination of efforts to deal with the impact of the pandemic on Sudanese communities in the UK and in Sudan

For this study, our working definition of a diaspora is a person with Sudanese origins who has resided outside Sudan for one year or more (first-generation) or is born to a parent or parents with Sudanese heritage (second and subsequent generations).

What do we hope to accomplish?

We want to ensure that going forward, the Sudanese community has support and access to effective timely and appropriate services and support for our families and communities, and the most effective way to demand that, is by showing evidence of what is needed, by whom, where and how.

Once we have spoken to Sudanese communities and collated relevant data, Shabaka will produce a policy briefing on a COVID-19 response and other crises in the UK alongside key learnings and recommendations in Arabic and English. This will be publicly available and will be particularly useful for local government in the UK, the UK and Sudanese governments officials, Sudanese communities, other African diasporas and charities and organisations working for and with people of Sudanese heritage.

What’s next?

We will reach out to Sudanese organisations and individuals over the coming weeks, and of course, ask those who want to take part to get in touch with us if they want to share their experiences- through the anonymous survey, or speak to our community researchers confidentially.

We are excited about this project for many reasons, particularly as we can see the potential to readdress some of the impact of the pandemic. We already know that while COVID-19 has cast a bleak shadow over our day to day lives, we have also seen the incredible strengths of the Sudanese communities all across the UK to respond to support each other here as well as to support those in Sudan. To support this drive, we know with better information and evidence, there can only be a strengthened and more resilient community that is ready and prepared to respond whatever challenge we may face next. But we can only produce this work with the support and insights of those affected, so we hope with the launch of this blog and the survey for the project, we will hear from as many voices as possible.

If you are of Sudanese heritage and live in the UK, you can access and complete the short anonymous survey here. Click for an Arabic or English version of the survey.

You can also get in touch with our Community Researchers (in Arabic or English) by emailing: info@shabaka.org