There is an ongoing conflict in Sudan. Its cause is somewhat ambiguous, and its end is unpredictable; but what we know for sure is that more than half of the country’s estimated 46 million population is in urgent need of humanitarian aid. Currently there’s no telling how this aid can safely be distributed to all those affected on the ground.
“The humanitarian situation in and around Sudan is tragic — there are food, water, and fuel shortages, limited access to transport, communications and electricity, and skyrocketing prices of basic items,” the UN Refugee Agency’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Raouf Mazou, said in a funding appeal as the conflict raged on in early May.
Since April 15, 2023, the country has been in the throes of violence. Citizens in Khartoum witnessed the beginning of it all that day, being stopped in their tracks at the sights and sounds of gunfire and explosions in Sudan’s capital.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have attempted to flee the country. While some have sought asylum in neighboring countries Chad, South Sudan, and Egypt, millions remain internally displaced without a way to flee.
Speaking to Global Citizen, Dr. Deepmala Mahla, Vice President of Humanitarian Affairs at CARE International, further explained what the situation looks like in the country.
“Basic essential services are severely hampered… health, water, sanitation, electricity. It seems that more than 60% at least [of these services are affected] and I fear it could be more,” she told us. “The health facilities are non functional at the moment. It means that the wounded and injured cannot get the treatment and children who were on therapeutic treatment because they were suffering from acute malnutrition, for example, their treatment has been disrupted.”
Even before the current ongoing violence, a third of Sudan’s population (around 15 million people) were already expected to need humanitarian aid in 2023, particularly regarding the food insecurity crisis in the region.
There is an incredible difficulty in identifying ways that the international community can help citizens trapped in and fleeing Sudan, as humanitarian aid has been continuously threatened, destroyed, or looted.
“As the needs are increasing, violence has made the delivery of aid near impossible,” the World Health Organization said in a statement.
With this in mind, here’s what you should know about the ongoing crisis in Sudan, and how you can help from wherever you are.
The Sudan crisis in numbers
A quick snapshot of what the situation looks like on the ground. Numbers are accurate at the date of publication.
- 25 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
- A reported 1,800 people have been killed.
- 2.5 million people are expected to slip into hunger.
- Almost 1.4 million people have been displaced.
- 13.6 million children are in need of assistance.
A timeline of key events in the Sudan conflict
The current ongoing conflict isn’t random, and has built up over the years as a result of continued instability and power struggles in the country. This is what that has looked like:
- 2019: Former president Omar al-Bashir was ousted from leadership following decades of war under his rule, which included accusations of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. Two generals who were instrumental in overthrowing the former leader are those responsible for the current violence in Sudan in 2023.
- 2021: Despite hopes of a civilian-led democratic rule in the country spearheaded by protesters who helped to oust al-Bashir, the military incited a coup, bringing the country back to being military-led.
- April 15, 2023: Violence erupted in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, following protests against the military regime. The main participants in the war are Sudan’s de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan leading the Sudanese armed forces, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Burhan’s former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as “Hemedti”. It is seemingly, although unconfirmed, a power struggle for potential leadership of the country.
- April 25: A 72-hour truce between the warring factions is negotiated, guided by the US and Saudi Arabia with the hopes of allowing access to aid to civilians on the ground. This is the first of seven truces (so far) that have been attempted in Sudan since the outbreak of the conflict on April 15.
- April 26: There are reports of aid agencies raising alarm about the humanitarian crisis worsening as a result of increasing numbers of displaced citizens; limited lifesaving resources including food, water, and health care services; and inability to disburse aid to those in need on the ground.
- April 27, May 11, May 22: Ceasefires agreed upon, and then subsequently breached.
The violence is ongoing, and the humanitarian situation is worsening.
Humanitarian aid crisis in Sudan
Even before the renewed violence in the country in April, Sudan’s scale of humanitarian need was large. The hunger crisis was impacting a third of the country, and the nation was already host to 1.1 million refugees (the largest refugee population on the African continent). Now in the face of conflict, treatment for hunger and malnourishment has been directly impacted and halted, and internal displacement has erupted.
Despite this, delivering aid and being on the front lines is proving to be dangerous with aid workers having been threatened and attacked.
Ten days into the violence, the UN confirmed 14 attacks on health care infrastructure, resulting in 8 deaths. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) had to halt operations on the ground following the death of three of its aid workers.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also reported attacks on health care workers and facilities, with Jean-Nicolas Armstrong Dangelser, MSF’s Emergency Coordinator in Sudan, saying: “We are experiencing a violation of humanitarian principles and the space for humanitarians to work is shrinking on a scale I've rarely seen before… We are shaken and appalled by these deplorable attacks. People are in a desperate situation and the need for health care is critical, but these attacks make it so much harder for health care workers to help. It’s senseless.”
Aid packages are also being looted and destroyed, continuing the halt of aid deliveries from humanitarian organizations.
"All the warehouses, WFP, UNHCR, and others in Darfur were looted. Vehicles from the humanitarian agencies were looted. The offices of my own mission as well as offices, agencies in most of the towns of Darfur were looted. Food trucks were looted,” said UN Envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes. "WFP lost like 4,000 metric tons of humanitarian goods. So if all this is looted, you cannot distribute it.”
Despite several attempts at a ceasefire in an effort to make aid accessible to citizens in the country, violence has continued throughout; resulting in a direct disrespect of international humanitarian law and leaving citizens with nowhere to turn to for urgent assistance.
How does this relate to ending poverty?
War and conflict cause and exacerbate poverty by disrupting food systems, destroying health care facilities and other vital infrastructure, displacing people from their homes, and disrupting education and employment. War impacts almost every single one of the UN’s 17 Global Goals — a roadmap on the mission to end extreme poverty — setting countries back on the route to achieving them.
So what do we do?
Asking what can be done to support citizens on the ground may seem futile in a situation where aid is being blocked and targeted, however, there are things that each and every one of us can do to play our part in helping civilians in Sudan.
Keep the conversation alive. The more the Sudan crisis remains in headlines, timelines, and every day conversations, the more it remains evident how urgent the situation is and pressure can be put on leaders to take action. There’s evidence that the more that the media, civil society organizations, and the public talk about crises, the better governments respond to them.
“Don't lose interest,” explains CARE International’s Deepmala Mahla, “because when the headlines fade, that does not mean people's needs have been addressed. Don't forget the people of Sudan.”
Continue to donate, especially to agencies with existing operations on the ground and operations in neighboring countries. Organizations such as CARE International, MSF, WFP, Mercy Corps, and UNHCR are not new to the Sudan region and have an understanding of how to assist those impacted by the conflict in Sudan, and its neighboring countries to which citizens have fled.
Mahla continued: “If you have any sort of influence or contact communication with somebody who influences policy makers, convey to them the need for policies and decisions related to funding access and others in the context of Sudan, try to influence them. Many times I have seen concerned citizens start a movement with a simple letter basically asking questions, asking for support, asking for favorable policy, so do what you can on that front.”
And finally, Mahla added: “If you know or you meet any aid worker, smile at them and say well done, encouragement can take things very far.”