With the increase in death and destruction in the Middle East due to the Israel – Palestine conflict, it can be easy to forget about humanitarian crises arising elsewhere in the world. The horrifying scenes in Gaza have held the attention of the world’s media while in places like Sudan, the socio-political situation is going from bad to worse. Sudan is now the largest child displacement crisis in the world, after three million children have fled due to widespread violence.
The crisis in Sudan stems from the civil war that erupted on April 15th, after weeks of escalating tensions between General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a powerful Sudanese paramilitary group.
The two leaders used to be allies in fact- staging the 2021 military coup that dissolved Sudan’s power-sharing government and prevented its rise to democracy after the long-term rule of a Dictator, ousted in 2019. However, things derailed when Burhan and Dagalo both became convinced of each other’s deception and the two generals now appear hell-bent on fighting to the bitter end, causing death and destruction for Sudan’s civilians. An estimated 5,000 Sudanese people have already been killed as fallout of this violent civil war and it is likely that this death toll will continue to rise.
An estimated 5,000 Sudanese people have already been killed in crossfire between the two warring branches of the military
Seven months after the start of Sudan’s civil war, conditions in Khartoum (the country’s capital) are worse than they have ever been. This doesn’t just ring true for civilians stuck there, but also for victims who have managed to escape the city but are now struggling to survive.
A victim of this violence, whose name is omitted for his safety said that “The RSF have penetrated the area and caused havoc, while the army is shelling their positions within the neighbourhood.” He then declared that “Death could come at any moment.”
Reportedly, RSF soldiers have been looting shops and people’s homes, affecting the supply of food and electricity to homes. The distribution of aid has become a bigger problem for the UN as they say that many also don’t have access to clean water, which will increase the risk of cholera and other water-borne diseases. The UN’s deputy special representative in Sudan, Clementine Nkweta-Salami has said that “[they] need a ceasefire that allows [them] to deliver humanitarian aid to those affected and assess the extent of their needs.”
For those who have escaped from Khartoum to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, many receive only one small meal per day, provided by a Qatari charity. However, while the one meal per day may bring home to the civilians sheltering there, the food can not be refrigerated and this has increased the risk of sickness.
According to the World Food Programme, over 42% of the population now face food insecurity and the conflict has caused over 20 million people to fall into severe acute hunger, with 6.3 million people “one step away from famine.”
over 42% of the population face food insecurity and the conflict has pushed over 20 million people into severe acute hunger.World Food Programme
This just a problem for the Sudanese but for many other nationalities too. Among the victims, Syrians, Pakistanis, Indians and large numbers of South Sudanese people are currently crowded in Port Sudan, in a makeshift shelter that was formerly a University dormitory.
Aid workers are also being adversely affected by the conflict while attempting to help citizens as it was reported that there were 900 security incidents involving UN workers in Sudan and, subsequently, 19 deaths. Notably, this makes Sudan an extremely dangerous country for not only civilians but also humanitarian workers and makes recuperation a near impossible feat.
With the political problem of a civil war comes the silent mass genocide that is currently underway. Earlier in November, for three days, gunmen went from home to home in a refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan, looking to kill Masalit men and killing them. Locals said that after the killing spree was over, around 800 and 1,300 members of this black-African ethnic group had been killed.
An aid worker said “There is genocide happening around us … It feels pretty hopeless.”
More help is urgently needed. UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) has emergency teams in neighbouring countries and is working with national authorities and partners to register new arrivals that are seeking shelter, ensure their most immediate needs are met and relocate them away from the borders to safer areas. Despite this, it is estimated that to respond to the needs of the fleeing victims, they would need one billion dollars to provide adequate aid and protection- and this would only be sufficient until the end of the year. This does not account for the more financial support that would be required into next year.
At the moment, the UN is struggling financially to assist the dire situation. They have only raised 2.6 billion dollars which is equivalent to a quarter of its humanitarian response plan. On the issue, Ms Nkweta-Salami says “That’s why we urgently appeal to our donors to please support our efforts, and [appeal] to the parties to stop the violence and conflict.”
On the topic of other global conflicts, Bryan Walsh of Vox says that it is a mistake to weigh the Sudan disaster against the Israel-Palestine conflict when “the death of a child, the loss of a mother, is a loss no matter where it occurs.” It is true that the horror in Gaza deserves attention, but world governments must stay alert to crises unfolding elsewhere as well. They must continue to offer sufficient support to aid agencies operating in places like Sudan, or innocent people will pay the price.