On Saturday April 15, fighting broke out in Khartoum, Sudan between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The war has displaced more than 4 million people, including 880,000 who have been forced to flee across international borders.

Violent clashes have impacted civilians, leading to the deaths of 18 humanitarian aid workers and 12 health care personnel. Bullets penetrated the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) office in Khartoum.

Meanwhile, rates of extreme levels of food insecurity affect 42 percent of Sudan’s population at a time when the country’s health sector is at risk of collapsing due to an acute shortage of medical supplies, water and fuel.

Despite a long awaited peace agreement between the SAF and RSF, sporadic fighting continues. Continued violence is continuing to put millions at risk and a permanent peace agreement is needed to ensure those in need can be reached.

The IRC has suspended many of our operations in the country but continues to serve vulnerable communities in Blue Nile and Gederaf state, where we provide life saving services to refugees in the Tunaydbah campWe have also scaled up our support to refugees fleeing over the border into neighboring countries. 

Additionally, we’ve established a satellite office in Wad Madani to provide primary health care and protection services to the over 50,000 internally displaced people who have fled there.

The IRC has also scaled up our support to refugees fleeing over the border into neighboring countries.

Over 300,000 people have arrived over the border into Chad — almost 90% of which are women and children. The upcoming rainy season is likely to exacerbate conditions even further. 

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.

An IRC staff speaks to a group of Sudanese refugees who have recently arrived in Chad to assess their needs. The conversation takes place outside, with a number of other refugees in the background.
The IRC in Chad is providing water and mobile clinic services to refugees from Sudan.
Photo: The IRC

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 toward 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.

“Compounding the situation is the intensification of interethnic conflicts in Sudan, which has raised concerns about the possibility of further waves of refugees,” says IRC Emergency Country Director Mwiti Mungania. “This crisis is worse than the last major one experienced 20 years ago in Sudan, underscoring the need for immediate aid and support.”

People in Tunaydbah camp in Sudan sit on benches while an IRC staff member 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.

The 2022 flood cycle affected around 350,000 people. Nearly 150 people died and 122 were injured during the heavy rains and flash flooding. Approximately 25,000 houses were destroyed and a further 50,000 were damaged as flooding impacted 16 of the 18 Sudanese states. Damage caused to critical infrastructure has also slowed the delivery of aid and the humanitarian response in Sudan.

The unusually heavy rains have also given way to 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.

“The combination of disrupted farming and the displacement of over 3 million people has created a perfect storm for a looming food security crisis,” explains IRC country director of Sudan, Eatizaz Yousif. “Vulnerable populations, including children, women, and the elderly, will bear the brunt of this man-made catastrophe. Access to fundamental necessities such as food, clean water, healthcare, and education has become severely limited, leaving the 47 million Sudanese people in a state of extreme vulnerability.”

A woman wades through flood water in Managil city while carrying a basket of clothes on her head.
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 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 42 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

More than 4 million people have been displaced after the first three months of war in Sudan. Almost 3.3 million people have been displaced in the country, while 880,000 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. Most of the children hold hands and form a circle around two children who complete an activity in the middle.
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 Blue Nile State, Wad Madani and the Tunaydbah refugee camp in Gedaref State where we continue to provide services to the refugee population.

“The staggering statistic of 14 million children in Sudan - half of all children in the country, requiring humanitarian aid is a stark reminder of the urgent need for collective action,” says Sarif. “The IRC is resolute in its commitment to provide essential support and create a brighter future for these children."

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:

The IRC has also established a satellite office in Wad Madani to provide primary health care and protection services to the over 50,000 internally displaced people who have fled there.

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. More than 300,000 people have crossed the border into the neighboring country, which already hosted 400,000 Sudanese refugees prior to the outbreak of conflict in April. 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.


A mother sits in a hospital room with a newborn child in her lap. Mosquito netting offers a thin veil of the room behind them.
Raouda* holds her newborn child, AbdelIrahim, in the IRC’s health center in Gaga refugee camp, Chad. Raouda was displaced by the war in Sudan and forced to flee across the border while she was nine months pregnant.
Photo: Chloé Leconte for the IRC

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