Sudan, gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1956, is a state in Northeast Africa with access to the Red Sea. The country shares land borders with Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Libya. Its capital is Khartoum. Sudan covers an area of 1,861,484 square kilometers. As of 2024, the country has an estimated population of around 51 million people.
The humanitarian situation
The scale of the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Sudan is unprecedented. On April 15, 2023, conflict broke out between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces, causing widespread displacement and exacerbating humanitarian needs throughout the country. Within months, more than 8.2 million people have been displaced due to the ongoing conflict. The number of people in need of humanitarian aid stands now at 24.8 million people – half of Sudan’s population.
The United Nations have warned that hunger, disease and displacement threaten to destroy Sudan as war spreads throughout the country, fueling a humanitarian emergency of “epic proportions”. A protracted conflict in Sudan could tip the entire region into a humanitarian catastrophe.
Civilians are bearing the brunt of the fighting, which has spread across Sudan. Thousands of people have been killed and thousands others injured since the fighting erupted more than ten months ago. The conflict between Sudan’s military headed up by General Abdel Fattah Burhan and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces led by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo broke out after months of rising tensions over the country's political future and the RSF's planned integration into the national army.
The violence that exploded between the warring parties has destroyed much of the essential infrastructure in the capital, Khartoum, pushing health and financial systems to near collapse, leaving people without access to money or essential goods. Fierce fighting has also been reported from the western region of Darfur. The clashes prevent people from accessing food, water, fuel, and medical care for their families. The ongoing fighting in Sudan is having a devastating impact on Sudanese civilians. Many people are in urgent need of medical assistance.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 65 percent of the population lack access to healthcare and 75 percent of hospitals in conflict-affected states are not functional, and hospitals that remain fully or partially functional risk closing for lack of medical staff, supplies, water and electricity. Attacks on health care continue to be reported across the country. As of December 2023, WHO had verified 60 attacks on health facilities since the conflict began.
Humanitarian needs in Sudan were already at record levels before the situation deteriorated, with some 15.8 million people requiring humanitarian assistance at the beginning of 2023. The growing needs in Sudan were driven by political instability following the military takeover on October 25, 2021, a socioeconomic crisis, insecurity and violence, displacements, floods, drought and disease outbreaks.
In 2024, more than half of Sudan's population - 24.8 million people - are dependent on humanitarian aid and protection. Among those in need are 14 million children.
An estimated 11 million people in Sudan - nearly a quarter of the population - require urgent health assistance, including about 4 million children and pregnant and breastfeeding women who are acutely malnourished, and more than 218,000 children under the age of five with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) with medical complications who need specialized care at stabilization centers.
Disease outbreaks are worsening and spreading: As of January 2024, cholera had spread from three to nine states, including larger cities and areas where conflict was ongoing with over 10,500 suspected and confirmed cases and 292 deaths; 11 states are reporting over 4,650 cases of suspected measles cases and 106 deaths; Other disease outbreaks are ongoing in several states, including malaria, and dengue fever.
In 2024, the United Nations and its humanitarian partner organizations have called for US$4.1 billion to help millions of people in the country and hundreds of thousands fleeing to neighboring countries. As the death toll mounts, humanitarian needs soar, and displacement grows, the UN has launched response plans to provide food, health care, shelter, protection and other critical assistance.
Before the severe fighting erupted, Sudan hosted about 1.2 million refugees, one of the largest refugee populations in Africa. South Sudanese represented more than 70% of the refugees (758,000) in Sudan, followed by 135,000 Eritrean refugees (11%) and 131,000 refugees from Ethiopia (11%).
Some 3.8 million Sudanese were internally displaced, mostly in the Darfur region that has experienced a volatile security situation since 2003. As of February 2024, there are more than 9 million women, men, and children internally displaced, making Sudan the largest internal displacement crisis worldwide. At least 800,000 Sudanese had fled to neighboring countries before the clashes escalated. The number of Sudanese refugees is now estimated at more than 2.6 million people.
According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase (IPC) analysis, over 17.7 million people - 37 percent of the population - are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or worse) between October 2023 and February 2024. While 12.8 million people are facing crisis levels (IPC Phase 3), nearly 4.9 million people are experiencing emergency levels of acute hunger (IPC Phase 4).
As of February 2024, only one in ten people facing emergency levels of hunger are in areas where they can receive assistance due to access restrictions and ongoing hostilities.
Before the situation deteriorated, a quarter of Sudan's population - 11.7 million people - were severely food insecure. Over 3 million children under 5 suffered from acute malnutrition in the country, with an estimated 650,000 children under 5 suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Insecurity, access restrictions, and scarce funding limit the ability of aid organizations to respond to humanitarian needs in Sudan.
To provide humanitarian assistance inside Sudan, the UN and partners need $2.7 billion to help 14.7 million people in 2024, according to the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). For those who have fled the country, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has requested an additional $1.4 billion this year to support displaced people in five countries bordering Sudan, according to the Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP).
The revised 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Sudan called for 2.6 billion US Dollar to provide lifesaving assistance to an estimated 18.1 million people by the end of the year. As of December, the HRP was only 39 percent funded. Nevertheless, between April and December 2023, humanitarian agencies reached at least 8.1 million people with humanitarian assistance inside the country.
In August, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) revised its regional response, extending the original six-month plan through the end of the year. The 2023 Sudan Emergency Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP) asked for 1 billion US Dollar to provide essential aid and protection to people fleeing to five neighboring countries. As of December, only 7 percent for the Regional Refugee Response Plan had been raised.
In 2022, the United Nations had appealed for 1.94 billion US Dollar in funding for the Sudan crisis. As of December 2022, only 837 million US Dollar had been received from donors (43 percent coverage).
The security situation
In April 2019, a civilian uprising grew out of protests against high prices for bread, fuel shortages, and other economic issues. On April 11, the Sudanese military overthrew long-term President Omar al-Bashir in support of a popular revolution, and subsequent political uncertainty contributed to heightened humanitarian security and protection concerns. In August 2019, a signed constitutional declaration laid out arrangements for a civilian-led transitional government for a 39-month period, with Abdalla Hamdouk appointed as Prime Minister.
However, the military took over the government on October 25, 2021, arresting civilian leadership. On November 21, Hamdouk was reinstated as Prime Minister under a power-sharing agreement with military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan but has since resigned on January 2, 2022. Due to the military coup and the de facto suspension of the transition to civilian rule, Sudan remained in a political stalemate.
The October 2021 military takeover derailed Sudan’s democratic transition and also upended the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement between the transitional government and armed groups in the country. The ensuing and escalating violence, particularly in the Darfur region, has displaced more than 700,000 Sudanese in 2021. 2022 witnessed an increase in the number and intensity of violent incidents throughout Sudan. As of December 2022, 300,000 people were freshly displaced due to conflict.
On December 5, 2022, more than fifty Sudanese political forces, civil society groups and the current military leaders signed a power-sharing deal that raised hopes of ending violent clashes between security forces and protesters. The agreement calls for immediate security and military reforms which include combining all militias, including the Sudan paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), into one unified army.
The agreement also stressed the need to resolve issues regarding transitional justice in the country. Officials from the United Nations, African Union and European Union congratulated the Sudanese parties for reaching the agreement and urged them to engage in genuine dialogue to complete the remaining tasks that would lead to the formation of a transitional government.
On April 15, 2023, fierce fighting between Sudan's armed forces and the rival Rapid Support Forces erupted in the capital and other areas outside Khartoum, shattering hopes for a transition to democracy and stoking fears of a wider conflict. The clashes soon spread across Sudan. According to conservative estimates by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), more than 13,000 people have been killed since April; a further 26,000 have been injured, according to the Sudanese Ministry of Health.
But the real death toll is expected to be much higher. An unpublished UN report says that up to 15,000 people have been killed in ethnic motivated violence in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, between April and June last year. According to media reports, an estimated death toll between 10,000 and 15,000 men, women, and children in El Geneina was attributed to intelligence sources.
A retrospective mortality survey carried out for the region of El Geneina by the humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) indicates that the mortality rate increased twenty-fold from April onwards, reaching 2.25 deaths per 10,000 people per day in June. The majority of deaths took place in El Geneina; with 83 percent of casualties being men.
Since clashes between the two warring factions began, some 8.2 million people have been displaced. While more than 6.4 million people – Sudanese and refugees already residing in the country - are displaced within Sudan, more than 1.8 million women, men, and children have sought refuge in other countries. 1.6 million of these have fled across borders into neighboring South Sudan, Chad , Ethiopia, Egypt and the Central African Republic.
Almost 40 percent of people who have fled the violence are women; around 50 percent are children.
The UN Refugee Agency projected that 1.8 million people would flee by the end of 2023 to five neighboring countries that have been generous in accepting refugees. Most of the Sudanese are seeking refuge in the seven countries that border the northeastern African state. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), nearly 57 percent of the people internally displaced are from Khartoum.
The civil war between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces is being waged with a new level of violence and brutality against civilians, especially in the states of Darfur. In particular, the RSF is accused of mass killings and rape as a means of war. Both parties to the conflict have been accused of serious war crimes.
Thousands are ethnically targeted, killed, injured, abused, and exploited, forcing more and more people to flee the violence. Gender-based violence (GBV), including sexual violence, is used as a tool of war and no longer concentrated in Khartoum or Darfur, but has spread to other parts of the country, such as Kordofan.
Ten months into the conflict, heavy fighting between the SAF and RSF continues at the same pace, with no signs of a possible resolution of the conflict or successful ceasefire after numerous failed attempts. Reports indicate a deterioration of the situation and continuation of deadly attacks across Khartoum, Darfur, the three Kordofan states and Blue Nile state. Agreeing and adhering to a ceasefire would be crucial to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the millions in need.
While violence persists in large parts of Sudan, fighting reached Al-Jazirah state, a region south of Khartoum, in December 2023. Within a few weeks, more than 600,000 people were displaced by attacks in the city of Wad Madani and parts of Al Jazirah state, Sudan's main breadbasket.
The expansion of fighting between the SAF and RSF into parts of central and eastern Sudan since December has led to a significant increase in humanitarian needs during the harvest season. As a result, acute food insecurity in the south-east is expected to worsen significantly from previously anticipated levels, exacerbating an already dire situation.
The war in Sudan is the culmination of months of tensions between the military and the rival paramilitary group, and a result of disagreements over the integration of the RSF into Sudan's armed forces. The tensions had also delayed an agreement with political parties to return the country to its short-lived transition to democracy. The appointment of a civilian transitional government had been expected in April 2023.
Your donation for the Sudan emergency can help United Nations agencies, international humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and their local partners to rapidly provide water, food, medicine, shelter and other aid to the people who need it most.
- UN Crisis Relief: Sudan Crisis
- World Food Programme: Sudan emergency
- UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR): Sudan emergency
- International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): Sudan crisis
- UNICEF: Sudan Appeal
- International Organization for Migration: Sudan
- Islamic Relief Worldwide: Sudan Emergency Appeal
- Plan International: Sudan Appeal
You may also consider making an unearmarked donation or a broader earmarked donation to humanitarian organizations active in Sudan.
- Save the Children US: Sudan
- International Rescue Committee: Sudan
- Oxfam International: Donate to the Global Emergency Fund
- Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC): Donate
- Care International: Sudan Humanitarian Crisis
- Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF): Sudan
To find other organizations to which you can donate, visit: Humanitarian Crisis Relief, Refugees and IDPs, Children in Need, Hunger and Food Insecurity, Medical Humanitarian Aid, Vulnerable Groups, Faith-Based Humanitarian Organizations, and Human Rights Organizations.
- UN OCHA: Sudan Situation Report
- ACAPS: Sudan complex crisis
- International Crisis Group: Sudan
- European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO): Sudan
- Human Rights Watch: World Report 2024: Sudan
- Amnesty International World Report 2022/2023: Sudan
Last updated: 20/02/2024