Sudan, June 2022. A first joint emergency response took place after inter-tribal violence in the Northern part of Kulbus locality in Dar Moqtaa in West Darfur. Photo: Nicolai Madsen/NRC

Seven things you should know about the humanitarian crisis in Sudan

Roald Høvring|Published 08. May 2023
Clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that erupted on 15 April are having devastating consequences for civilians.

Even before the latest violence more than one in three people in Sudan required humanitarian assistance. The country is suffering from multiple protracted and recent emergencies, against a challenging and changing backdrop.

Here are seven things you should know about the humanitarian crisis in Sudan.


#1: Senseless violence

More than 500 people, among them 190 children, have been killed and more than 4,500 injured as Sudan collapsed into conflict on 15 April. Urban warfare in the middle of the capital city has led to widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure, including homes and hospitals. The actual death toll is expected to be much higher, as access is restricted to many locations where people have been killed, and current figures include only deaths reported to health facilities.

The fighting also goes far beyond the capital. In West Darfur, days of intensive fighting led to the destruction and burning of property and displacement sites, forcing many people to flee for their lives. At least 191 were killed in five days in West Darfur.

#2: Lack of food, fuel, water and cash

Prices of food, fuel and other basic goods are skyrocketing, making essential goods unaffordable for many people. In Khartoum, several neighbourhoods continue to face severe shortages due to blackouts, lack of fuel and damage to water supplies.

Across the country and particularly in Khartoum, access to cash is heavily compromised as the banks have generally remained closed since the beginning of the conflict. This seriously hampers people’s ability to provide for the basics or afford transportation to flee to a safer location.

#3: People fleeing for their lives

About 334,000 people are estimated to have been internally displaced in only 20 days. Over 100,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries like Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and South Sudan. Before this widespread conflict, 3.7 million people were already displaced because of violence across the country, with entire generations forced to grow up in displacement – particularly in Darfur.

#4: Spiral of violence

For the past decade, Khartoum used to be a safe haven for 1 million internally displaced people and hundreds of thousands of refugees. Today, it is a place that people flee from. Darfur on the other hand has seen escalating violence since 2021, with extensive attacks on civilians, villages and displacement sites across the region and more than half a million people forced to flee because of this violence.

#5: A large humanitarian context

Even before the latest conflict in Sudan 15.8 million people were in need of assistance, with the majority of those displaced in Darfur. The number of people facing hunger rose for three years in a row, with 11.7 million in need of food assistance and livelihood support. Yet, the humanitarian crisis was receiving little of the world’s attention with declining funding and humanitarian support.

Whilst the country made the headlines in April 2023, it must not be neglected again as the news cycle moves on.

#6: Host country for refugees

Sudan is hosting one of the largest refugee populations in Africa, with over a million refugees from various countries, including South Sudan (71 per cent), Eritrea (11 per cent), Syria (9 per cent), Ethiopia (6 per cent ), and others. In November 2020, clashes in Ethiopia’s Tigray region sparked an outflow of refugees into eastern Sudan in search of safety.

Today, the plight of refugees in the country is of grave concern, as many do not have the option of going to back to the country they fled from and lack resources to cope with their growing needs.

#7: Attacks on humanitarian workers

Killing of humanitarian workers and looting of humanitarian assets and offices has compromised humanitarian action in key locations. On 30 April, one of our community volunteers was killed in West Darfur. At least 18 health and humanitarian workers have lost their lives since the fighting started, according to the Ministry of Health. Many international humanitarian organisations, including Norwegian Refugee Council, have suspended their operations in the country. Efforts are ongoing to deliver assistance wherever and whenever possible.