Sudan faces dire humanitarian crisis as conflict displaces millions

ByHisham Allam

Sudan faces dire humanitarian crisis as conflict displaces millions

As Sudan faces a worsening humanitarian situation, a staggering 25 million people are in urgent need of aid amid prolonged internal armed conflict and severe shortages. UN Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths has sounded the alarm, citing significant hurdles in accessing critical services and painted a grim picture with basic services in near collapse and disproportionately affecting women and children. With famine looming and widespread displacement, Sudan stands on the brink of a dire humanitarian catastrophe.

Since mid-April, the ongoing conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has intensified the crisis, resulting in widespread displacement, infrastructure damage, and shortages of essential commodities. More than 10,000 Sudanese have reportedly lost their lives.

Delivering aid has become increasingly difficult.

“Since mid-April, we have been able to reach only 4.1 million people with life-saving aid,” Griffiths said.

This limited access hampers efforts to tackle a cholera outbreak and provide crucial assistance to those in need. The conflict has brought basic services in the country to an almost complete halt, further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis and hindering access to vital necessities such as food and healthcare.

A recent report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs highlighted that Sudan is in the midst of an unprecedented displacement crisis. Since mid-April 2023, over 6 million people have been displaced within and outside the country. Of these, 3 million were children, which makes Sudan the location of the world’s worst child displacement catastrophe. Furthermore, the report expressed grave concern regarding the kidnapping of women and girls who are allegedly forced to marry and held for ransom.

Adnan Hezam, Sudan’s International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Spokes Person, described the situation to DevelopmentAid as one of widespread displacement and acute scarcity of basic supplies such as food, water, medication, and gasoline. He warned that the situation is getting worse with people’s needs growing.

“The escalating violence could have serious repercussions not only for Sudan but also for the wider region,” Hezam told DevelopmentAid. “The humanitarian needs are urgent and diverse, including food, water, and medical supplies. The country is in a dire situation.”

Hezam further explained that many displaced individuals are living in internally displaced persons shelters, camps, or makeshift settlements while hundreds of thousands of refugees are seeking safety in neighboring countries, particularly Egypt, South Sudan, and Chad.

“The continuous conflict has caused a substantial decrease in vital services, creating immense challenges for people to obtain essential resources like safe water and healthcare,” Hezam commented.

He also underscored the crisis’s connection to climate change, emphasizing that inadequate rainfall and dry conditions have significantly diminished the possibility of rain-fed farming, jeopardizing crucial food production.

To address the crisis, the ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent Society are delivering vital services, fixing water infrastructure, distributing food, and bolstering healthcare facilities.

“We have managed to distribute food items, including rice, sugar, oil, salt, and lentils, and essential household items to more than 16,000 displaced people in different areas of the country, including Darfur,” Hezam said. “We also supported a community kitchen in Al-Fashir, which serves two hot meals per day for 3,000 displaced people. We donated food parcels to the Sudanese Red Crescent Society for 24,000 displaced people from Khartoum residing in Sinnar and Damazine States.”

Muzaffar Abdul-Karim, a member of the Federal Rally Party in Sudan, raised concerns about the deteriorating environmental and humanitarian situation in the country. He highlighted the absence of state institutions, the displacement of workers, and the accumulation of waste which has led to the spread of diseases.

“The shortages of medicines, medical supplies, and vaccines have compounded the situation,” Abdul-Karim told DevelopmentAid. “The ongoing displacement and refugee crisis have further exacerbated the challenges, particularly for children who are most vulnerable to food and medicine shortages.”

The inadequate distribution of humanitarian aid has also contributed to the crisis. Abdul-Karim urged the international community to provide urgent assistance to address Sudan’s pressing needs and alleviate the suffering of its people.

As reported by the World Food Programme, the issue of hunger, which has been escalating annually since 2020 reaching unprecedented levels of food insecurity, is being intensified by the ongoing hostilities. Over 6 million individuals are on the brink of famine, and 20.3 million people, equating to 42% of the population, are facing severe food insecurity. The situation is desperate and necessitates immediate intervention and action.

The nine-month-long armed conflict is a result of a power struggle between the two factions of the military regime. The SAF is broadly loyal to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country’s de facto ruler, while the RSF follows the former warlord General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti. One of the main causes of the conflict is the unequal distribution of resources in Sudan which has led to significant disparities and discontent.