On Saturday April 15 fighting broke out in Khartoum, Sudan between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The clashes have led to the deaths of more than 750 people and left over 5,1000 injured. Almost one million people have been displaced.

Elsewhere in the country, five humanitarian workers were killed and two others were seriously injured in an attack in Darfur. Bullets penetrated the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) office in Khartoum.

As a result, the IRC has suspended many of our operations in the country. We are continuing to serve vulnerable communities in Blue Nile and Gederaf state, where we provide life saving services to refugees in the Tunaydbah camp.

“IRC staff at the borders with Sudan have reported thousands of refugees living in makeshift tents with limited access to clean water and sanitation,” says IRC vice president of East Africa, Kurt Tjossem. “Efforts are underway to transfer them to neighboring existing camps, but the large numbers of people make this a challenging task. The longer they remain in these conditions, the more vulnerable they become to disease, hunger and other hardships.”

Over 90,000 people have arrived over the border into Chad, where relief organizations, including the IRC, are providing support with health, nutrition, sanitation and protection needs.

“Chad has been generously welcoming in Sudanese refugees, but Chad itself is a low-income, crisis-affected country,” explains IRC president and CEO David Miliband. “Chad will struggle to maintain this generosity unless they receive immediate and significant economic support.”

Below, learn more about the situation.

A woman from the Beja tribe woman in Port Sudan, the capital of the Red Sea State in eastern Sudan.
A woman from the Beja tribe woman in Port Sudan, the capital of the Red Sea State in eastern Sudan.
Photo: Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

What do the people of Sudan face today?

Prior to the outbreak of conflict, Sudan was already facing a humanitarian crisis due to extreme weather shocks, social and political unrest and rising food prices that continue to drive poverty, hunger and displacement.

Political tensions and instability

Since a military coup in October 2021, Sudan has been run by a council of generals. In July 2022, given heightened public distrust of the military, the de-facto Sudanese head of state announced that he would withdraw from political talks and support the formation of a technocratic cabinet. But the current violence was sparked by a disagreement over the integration of the RSF into the military as part of this transition towards civilian rule. 

Current violence has greatly exacerbated Sudan’s humanitarian crisis while reducing the ability of humanitarian organizations to deliver life-saving aid.

“The killing of humanitarian workers and scores of Sudanese is unacceptable,” Tjossem said. “The IRC calls upon all sides to work without delay to address outstanding issues with a view to achieving a lasting, inclusive political peace.”

Ongoing intercommunal violence

Continued conflict has caused further displacement and insecurity in border regions of Sudan. Limited state authority and unresolved local disputes over scarce land and natural resources in Darfur, Kordofan and Kassala drove increased fighting and displacement throughout 2022. 

The rise in violence in the Blue Nile state has displaced 97,000 people since July 2022, while a similar situation displaced 21,000 people in West Kordofan in October.

People in Tunaydbah camp in Sudan sit on benches while one man kneels in front of them.
Political unrest drives people away from their homes and into places like Tunaydbah camp in Sudan.
Photo: Khalid Alarabi/IRC

Climate change increasing frequency of extreme weather

Sudan is experiencing substantially warmer and drier weather, with shorter rainy periods reducing crop production and erratic rainfall also making flooding more likely. Most Sudanese live in rural areas and depend on rain to raise crops and livestock.

In the second half of 2020, at least 111,000 houses were either destroyed or severely damaged by floodwater, while the number of people critically affected exceeded 770,000. Nearly 16,000 latrines were destroyed and the collapse of the Bout Dam hindered access to water to more than 100,000 people in Blue Nile State. All 18 States of the country were affected.

Unusually heavy rains have also resulted in the worst desert locust infestation seen across the horn of Africa in decades. Loss of crops and rising food prices have made it increasingly difficult for families to put food on the table each day.

A woman wades through flood water in Managil city.
A woman wades through flood water in Managil city in al-Gezira state, east-central Sudan. In July 2022, the country declared a state of emergency due to floods in six states, including River Nile.
Photo: Ebrahim Hamid/AFP via Getty Images

Deepening economic crisis

Sudan is facing a multitude of economic pressures: a high inflation rate, extremely low foreign reserves and the international community’s suspension of foreign debt relief programs. Though the inflation rate is predicted to fall to 115.7 percent in 2023 from 236.4 percent in 2022, this still reflects very rapidly growing prices. 

Sudan imports 80 percent of its wheat from Russia, making it particularly impacted by the ripple effects from the war in Ukraine. Extreme levels of food insecurity and malnutrition affect 39 percent of Sudan’s population, making it one of the worst food insecurity emergencies in the world.

Financial donors suspended Sudan’s debt removal program when the military took power, meaning an agreement to write off $14 billion in debt and cancel $9 billion more in the future is no longer going ahead. 

On top of this, cooperation between the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the current authorities remains suspended. The UN’s Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan, which aims to ensure the country’s humanitarian needs are met, is just 14 percent funded. Against this backdrop, the economic crisis is likely to grow throughout 2023: food and transportation costs may rise further, and medicine, energy and imported goods will likely face shortages.

Accelerated displacement throughout Sudan

Almost one million people have been displaced after the first month of war in Sudan. Over 700,000 people have been displaced in the country, while 200,000 others have been forced to flee across borders into neighboring countries like Chad, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. 

“When people become displaced, whether within a country or over borders, they require support as they carry very little provisions with them,” explains IRC emergency director for East Africa, Shashwat Sarif. “The latest violence has led to acute shortages of food, water, medicines, and fuel, while the price of essential items has significantly increased.”

Prior to the outbreak of war in Sudan, over 70,000 refugees had fled over the Ethiopian border into Sudan following ongoing conflict in the Tigray region. Thirty-one percent of the refugees are children, with a high volume of unaccompanied minors who have often experienced trauma and abuse on their journey to Sudan. People need vital support including food, protection and healthcare.

Children play together at Tunaydbah camp, Sudan.
10-year old Mirkha playing football with his best friend Hafton and some other children in Tunaydbah camp, Sudan. Hafton and Mirkha are refugees from Tigray who fled to Sudan in search of safety. The boys attend the IRC's EU-funded safe spaces in the camp, and became friends through playing football together.
Photo: Khalid Alarabi

How is the IRC helping in Sudan?

Note: Due to attacks on humanitarian workers, the IRC has paused our operations throughout the country, except for Tunaydbah in Gedaref State where we continue to provide services to the refugee population.

“As intense conflict within Khartoum, Sudan continues, the IRC is concerned about the welfare of approximately 3,000 people that have arrived in Tunaydbah refugee camp, Gedaref State in east Sudan,” explains Mohammed Mahdi, the IRC’s Sudan deputy program director. “The IRC will include displaced people in our ongoing health, nutrition and women empowerment activities. We will also provide them with basic items that will help meet some of their immediate needs. We anticipate more people arriving to east Sudan in the coming weeks.”

The IRC works across four states in Sudan, supporting people impacted by conflict and crisis, including women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, refugees and host communities. This includes:

Learn more about the IRC’s Sudan response.

How is the IRC helping Sudanese refugees?

The IRC is supporting Sudanese refugees who have fled to Chad. An estimated 90,000 people have crossed the border into the neighboring country, which already hosts 400,000 Sudanese refugees. Ninety percent of people arriving across the borders are women and children, with one-fifth of young children experiencing acute malnutrition.

“The fact that women and children make up such a large proportion of the new arrivals in Chad is particularly worrying because they are often the most vulnerable groups in conflict situations,” explains IRC Chad country director, Aleksandra Roulet-Cimpric. “Women and children are at greater risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse, and they may also face difficulties accessing basic necessities such as food, water and healthcare.”

In Chad, the IRC has been providing drinking water to people who have arrived severely dehydrated and has set up mobile health clinics to attend to the vast health needs of the arriving population. In addition to providing immediate relief, the IRC is also working to scale up its support in the areas of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), health, and protection. This includes providing access to safe water and sanitation facilities, as well as promoting good hygiene practices to prevent the spread of disease.

Read our May 17th statement.

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