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Friday, February 23, 2024

This is what's happening in Sudan right now

As the world bemoans the escalating violence in the Middle East and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the ongoing conflict in Sudan is increasing rapidly to new heights. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), it is pushing the nation to the brink of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

But what is happening in Sudan, and why are people comparing Sudan to what is happening in the Middle East?

The UNHCR has sounded the alarm as more than six million people have been forced from their homes, and over a million have fled to neighbouring countries.

UNHCR Director of External Relations, Dominique Hyde, expressed her deep concern at a press briefing held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Tuesday.

She stated, “The war that erupted without warning turned previously peaceful Sudanese homes into cemeteries. Now, fighting is growing in scope and brutality, affecting the people of Sudan, and the world is scandalously silent, though violations of international humanitarian law persist with impunity”.

The conflict, which began in April, has led to the internal displacement of 4.5 million people within Sudan, while 1.2 million have fled to neighbouring countries such as Chad, Egypt, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Central African Republic (CAR). A majority of the refugees are women and children.

The Darfur region, which has seen recent escalations in violence, has witnessed thousands of people struggling to find shelter, with many forced to sleep under trees by the roadside with inadequate access to basic necessities.

Hyde’s visit to Sudan’s White Nile State revealed the dire situation, where over 433,000 internally displaced persons are estimated to be living.

The state had been hosting nearly 300,000 South Sudanese refugees in 10 camps before the conflict, exacerbating the challenges for both newcomers and long-standing residents.

Essential services have been overwhelmed, and the education of millions of children is at risk, with schools closed for the last seven months.

The health situation is equally dire, with a measles outbreak and high levels of malnutrition leading to the tragic deaths of over 1,200 children under five in White Nile State between mid-May and mid-September. Essential medicines and supplies are lacking, further compounding the crisis.

The exodus of Sudanese refugees to neighbouring countries is also escalating.

In Chad, new arrivals are streaming in at a rate of approximately 700 per day, with a surge of over 20,000 people crossing the border from Sudan into Renk, South Sudan, within a week. A transit centre built for 3,000 people in Renk now houses about 20,000, primarily Sudanese refugees. The overcrowded conditions and lack of proper sanitation make the area susceptible to a cholera outbreak, putting lives at risk.

Hyde emphasised the overwhelming nature of the crisis, stating, “I’ve been in this work for 30 years, and this is probably one of the worst situations I’ve seen”. She further urged the international community for immediate funding support to address the critical needs.

The UNHCR has also received reports of widespread rape and sexual violence within the conflict zone. Hyde called for an end to all gender-based violence and emphasised the need for accountability for these crimes and support for survivors.

The Regional Refugee Response Plan for the humanitarian needs of neighbouring countries receiving Sudanese refugees is only 39% funded. The UNHCR is appealing for $1 billion to support 64 partners in five countries. A separate appeal for humanitarian needs inside Sudan is also severely underfunded, with only a third of the required $2.6 billion in funding received.

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