World News Forgotten disaster: A growing humanitarian crisis in Sudan, nine months on

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Monday, 15 January 2024

In what many have dubbed the 'silent war,' the situation in Khartoum and the rest of the country is getting more dire by the day as warring sides intensify fighting.

15 January 2024
The conflict in Sudan has displaced more than 7 million people. Photo: Reuters

The conflict in Sudan has displaced more than 7 million people. Photo: Reuters

Airstrikes and shelling. Food and medicine shortages. More than 12,000 dead. Hundreds of thousands displaced.

A bloody struggle between two generals in Sudan continues to rage for nine months, sparking what the United Nations has described as the world's largest human displacement crisis and pushing Africa's third-largest country into a violence.

According to a volunteer member of a district emergency room in Bahri, a city north of the capital Khartoum, food stocks in stores and shops in the region are scarce and depleting.

Monzer O. is a financial analyst by trade. But Sudan's civil war — which has pitted Abdel Fattah al Burhan's Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, known as Hemetti — has put a halt to his regular day job.

Now, the 32-year-old volunteers full time with his local emergency room, distributing food through a "takyyah" or public soup kitchen, amongst other efforts, to residents in the area, as fighting has restricted food supplies and movement.

A kilo of tomatoes now costs about 9,000 Sudanese Pounds, equivalent to roughly $13. The continuing water crisis, Monzer says, means residents are forced to collect water from the Nile for drinking and washing purposes.

"The situation has become bad, and we can no longer confront this together," Monzer says. "Safe corridors must be established so that organisations can enter Bahri to provide aid urgently."

Mass displacement crisis

Monzer adds, "People can move within the neighbourhoods despite the difficulty of doing so, and as is known, the Bahri region is controlled by the Rapid Support Forces, so movement in it does not take place except with official written permission from the commander of the region."

Most Sudanese in the country have been forced to flee their homes, either moving to neighbouring states or countries, such as Chad, to escape getting caught in the crosshairs of the SAF and RSF.

Some in Sudan have stayed put because they have disabilities or must care for elderly family members or those with medical needs that do not allow them to move, while others simply cannot afford the option to leave and seek refuge elsewhere.

While most of his family evacuated to safety, Monzer mainly stayed behind to help care for and bring food to a family member in their old age, whose household includes a daughter with disabilities.

Since fighting erupted on April 15, 2023, more than 7.3 million people have been displaced inside and outside Sudan, now the country with the largest number of displaced people and the largest child displacement crisis in the world, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"We see people fleeing across the border to Chad, and when they get to Chad, for example, the response of the humanitarian community and the donor community is very limited," Secretary General of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Chris Lockyear tells TRT World.

"So it's an area where we're really calling for people to increase their support for people who are fleeing from the conflicts in Sudan — the needs are enormous, [but] our ability to respond is limited," Lockyear says, adding that difficulties in bringing medical supplies are a crucial factor affecting the medical humanitarian organisation's work.

Medical supply ban

Approximately 25 million people need urgent humanitarian aid in Sudan.

In September 2023, an ongoing ban on transporting surgical supplies in Khartoum was implemented to prevent injured soldiers in the RSF-controlled area from receiving treatment in the country's capital, putting the lives of hundreds of people at risk, according to MSF.

Almost all hospitals and pharmacies are closed in Khartoum, says Mohamed S., adding that those injured or in critical condition must travel outside the city to find medical care.

"My uncle passed away three months ago. He suffered from kidney failure," Mohamed tells TRT World from Doha, where he has resided for most of his life.

"He had to travel to another state for his dialysis treatment because all the hospitals were closed where he lived in Shambat [a district in Khartoum]. It was so hard to find a vehicle to get him out," the 33-year-old engineer adds.

"By the time he got there, he died. The queues were long, many people were waiting, and the [dialysis] machine was not working well. The doctors couldn't help him because his case was [deteriorating] so fast."

Like many Sudanese people living abroad and are part of the diaspora, Mohamed waits patiently for updates on his family, many of whom have mostly evacuated Shambat.

Electricity shortages in the country have been worsened by the fighting, leading to power cuts as well as fluctuating internet access for many. It can sometimes take a week to two weeks for power to be restored, thanks to a team of volunteers who brave bullets to fix electricity lines, says Mohamed.

Since December 19, more than 12,000 people have been killed in Sudan as the violence erupted. However, some say the number is a conservative estimate, with the true toll of the fighting likely higher as fighting continues.

As Mohamed puts it, "Stop the war so people can return home and be safe."

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