Intense fighting in Sudan is putting the lives, safety and security of refugees, displaced people and other civilians at risk.
Sudan hosts one of the largest refugee populations in Africa, over 1 million people, whilst 3.7 million Sudanese people are displaced internally due to past violence and flooding. This new escalation in violence is exacerbating an already devastating situation. People desperately need help.
What is the situation in Sudan?
On 15 April, fighting broke out in various parts of Sudan, which has been escalating since. This latest outbreak of violence is exacerbating an already challenging situation in a country that has faced severe flooding and conflict in recent times, resulting in 3.7 million people becoming displaced.
As of 2nd May, UNHCR estimates that over 100,000 people have fled conflict in Sudan to seek shelter in the neighbouring countries of Chad, Egypt and South Sudan (of whom 88% are South Sudanese returnees), with the majority of those arriving being women and children, who are currently sheltering out in the open. Many people crossing the border are located in villages close to the Sudanese border, with more people expected to arrive in the coming days.
If fighting continues, UNHCR, alongside governments and partners estimates that more than 800,000 refugees and returnees may flee Sudan to neighbouring countries.
The situation in Sudan remains volatile, and UNHCR is staying and delivering in Sudan where possible. UNHCR remains ready to respond and support as needed in Sudan and the region.
Is UNHCR still operating in Sudan?
Yes, UNHCR has been supporting displaced people in Sudan for many years and relief operations are continuing with precautions wherever the situation allows. Staff are monitoring the situation daily. If the overall conflict continues, the humanitarian response to those in need will be further hindered.
As of 21 April 2023, UNHCR had temporarily suspended its activities in Khartoum, the Darfurs and North Kordofan, due to the intensity of the latest conflict and continues to monitor the situation. The suspension of some programmes is likely to exacerbate risks faced by those who rely on humanitarian aid to survive.
How is UNHCR responding to this latest crisis?
UNHCR has well established operations across Sudan, as well as in neighbouring countries, and is calling on all parties to stop the conflict and ensure civilians are protected, so that humanitarian operations can continue.
UNHCR is also urging neighbouring countries to keep their borders open to fleeing civilians. UNHCR teams and partners are on the border in Chad, for example, where refugees continue to arrive and many are being forced to sleep in the open, sheltering under trees. Most are women and children.
UNHCR is gathering additional supplies of core relief items, including sleeping mats, soap and cooking utensils for 20,000 refugees.
With the situation evolving hourly, UNHCR is preparing to scale up operations rapidly to support those fleeing. The initial, most pressing needs are water, food, shelter, health care, child protection, and prevention of gender-based violence. Due to the violence experienced by those crossing the border, psychosocial support is also among UNHCR’s top priorities.
What is Sudan’s role as a refugee hosting country?
Sudan generously hosts one of the largest refugee populations in Africa, providing refuge to just over one million people who have fled conflict in countries such as South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Syria.
Most refugees live in out-of-camp settlements, host communities and urban areas (61%), while others (39%) stay in camps in eastern Sudan, White Nile State and Darfur.
Due to the ongoing conflict, UNHCR estimates that around 315,000 refugees currently living in Sudan could return to their home countries of South Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Central African Republic if this crisis continues.
How is UNHCR supporting South Sudanese refugees returning to South Sudan?
Sudan hosts over 800,000 South Sudanese refugees, a quarter of whom are in Khartoum, the capital, and are directly affected by the fighting. An estimated 17,600 South Sudanese refugees have returned to South Sudan to date, with UNHCR teams and partners at border crossing points to monitor new arrivals and provide assistance.
Many people who have returned to South Sudan already are those who have had the means to pay for travel from Khartoum and continue their travel inside South Sudan. They informed UNHCR teams that many of their fellow nationals are trying to reach the border on foot.
Those arriving at the border in South Sudan include older people, people with disabilities, pregnant women and female heads of households with young children and large families. UNHCR has set up a centre where new arrivals can receive essential protection services as well as emergency relief items.
Most South Sudanese returnees are expected to go back to parts of the country that are fragile as a result of conflict, climate change or food insecurity – or a combination of all three.
Following a consultation with partners, UNHCR has estimates that around 215,000 South Sudanese refugees may return to South Sudan, and is seriously concerned about the impact that a large, unplanned number of new returns may have on already struggling local economies.
To read more about UNHCR’s work in South Sudan, please visit our website here.
Are civilians being displaced by this latest violence?
Movement is dangerous under the current conditions and many people are sheltering in their homes or other buildings. However, South Sudanese refugees have begun returning to South Sudan, whilst new Sudanese refugees have already begun to arrive in neighbouring Chad, where UNHCR teams and partners are on the border to support people as they arrive. UNHCR has also received reports of people starting to arrive in Egypt, though exact numbers are not yet available.
Prior to this escalation in violence in April 2023, conflict in the country had already displaced 3.7 million Sudanese within Sudan, while more than 840,000 had fled the country and become refugees in countries such as Chad, South Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia.
How can I support relief efforts for people affected by this conflict?
Fundraising is another great way to help and there are lots of ways to get involved – from taking on a sporting challenge to organising an event at work, home or school. For more information, please visit our fundraising page.
For other ways to help, visit our website here.