International Rescue Committee anticipates ‘secondary humanitarian crisis’ in Sudan

Drone footage shows clouds of black smoke over Bahri, also known as Khartoum North, Sudan, in this May 1, 2023 video obtained by REUTERS

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The International Rescue Committee anticipates “a secondary humanitarian crisis” as refugees flock to neighboring countries to flee the escalating conflict in Sudan.

The conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) entered its 24th day on Monday as a new ceasefire was scrapped earlier in the week.

US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a Senate hearing on Thursday that the fighting “will likely be protracted because both sides believe they can win militarily and have little incentive to come to the table. negotiations”.

Around 45 million people remain in Sudan, facing severe shortages of fuel, food, water and medical access. Multiple ceasefires have quickly dissolved into further violence, making it difficult for international agencies and NGOs to deliver humanitarian aid to the sprawling vast country.

The IRC estimated that as of Wednesday, the conflict had displaced around 334,000 people inside Sudan itself, while around 65,000 are believed to have crossed the borders as refugees to neighboring countries.

“These countries are of course already struggling as a result of the ongoing conflict and six failed rainy seasons in the Horn of Africa, which has already left many people food insecure or malnourished,” Madiha Raza, IRC’s senior global communications manager for Africa, told CNBC. .

According to the IRC, 30,000 refugees have crossed the border from the Darfur region in western Sudan into Chad since April 15.

Another 15,000 have fled to South Sudan, many of them returnees who had previously fled conflict in their own country south of the border, while several thousand have also crossed into Ethiopia.

DARFUR, Sudan – May 2, 2023: People inspect a destroyed medical warehouse in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur province, as deadly clashes between forces of rival generals entered their third week.

-/AFP via Getty Images

“These countries are refugee-hosting communities and countries that need more support from the international community to be able to host and support the refugees who are arriving in their thousands,” Raza added.

THE United Nations Refugee Agency projected a figure of 800,000 refugees if the conflict continues as expected. These figures include those traveling in dire conditions to neighboring Chad, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

“People are arriving traumatized, hungry. It’s extremely hot and there’s an acute lack of water in these areas. It’s around 50 degrees centigrade (122 Fahrenheit). People are arriving extremely dehydrated and thirsty,” Raza said per video link from Nairobi, Kenya.

She said the lack of fuel, food and pharmaceutical equipment has further driven up prices in a country that was already struggling before the violence escalated.

“People inside the country who are trapped inside don’t have the means or access to get basic supplies, so absolutely we were anticipating a secondary humanitarian crisis,” Raza said.

“The longer this lasts, the longer it will take to recover from economic shocks in countries that are susceptible to extreme instability.”

Darfur again between two fires

According to the IRC, most of the refugees crossing into Chad are women and children from Darfur. The organization provides mobile health clinics, nutrition, protection and water, as many hospitals in the western region have been attacked or looted.

“People further away cannot cross because they are attacked, killed or injured,” she added.

Darfur has been in the crossfire of the conflict since 2003, after non-Arab groups rose up against the Arab-led government of now-deposed dictator Omar al-Bashir. In response, Bashir sent brutal Arab militias, known as “Janjaweed”.

The Rapid Support Forces, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as “Hemedti”, emerged from the Janjaweed militia, and various Arab groups took advantage of the instability created by the conflict in the country’s capital, Khartoum, to launch violent attacks.

The RSF have been in conflict with the Sudanese Armed Forces, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, since April 15, after the breakdown of a fragile power-sharing agreement between the two military factions.

The two generals had overseen a planned transition to civilian rule following a military coup in October 2021 that overthrew civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and dissolved the country’s government.

Sudanese refugees from the Tandelti region who crossed into Chad, in Koufroun, near Echbara, sit near temporary shelters on April 30, 2023 for an aid distribution.

Gueipeur Denis Sassou | AFP | Getty Images

Sudanese trying to flee the country cannot enter Chad through Darfur because the area is currently held by different armed groups, Raza said, meaning the movement of people into Chad from Sudan has “slowed down.” simply because people further away are not able to make this trip.”

Fighting in Khartoum has also spread to other areas around the city such as Bahri and Omdurman.

Decades of conflict in Sudan have stifled the country’s growth and pushed more than half the population into poverty.

Several bloody civil wars have plagued Africa’s third-largest country, then overseen by Bashir, who ruled the country for more than 30 years.

The two leaders now vying for control of the state’s military capabilities were generals under Bashir’s regime and rose from the ashes of his leadership after a coup that toppled Bashir in 2019 after months of protests.


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