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Over three million children displaced from homes in Sudan

The number of children displaced across Sudan now the highest in the world
3 min read
18 October, 2023
The conflict in Sudan has reached a grim new milestone, with the country now holding the highest number of internally displaced people on earth.

At least 7.1 million people, including an estimated 3.3 million children, are now displaced from their homes across Sudan, a number which has nearly doubled since devastating conflict ripped through the country in mid-April.

Sudan has been engulfed in chaos since mid-April when simmering tensions between military chief General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and the commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, exploded into open warfare.

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The six months of war has killed up to 9,000 people and created “one of the worst humanitarian nightmares in recent history,” the United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said this month. 

“For six months, civilians... have known no respite from bloodshed and terror,” Griffiths said in a statement on October 15, marking the six-month anniversary of the war. “Horrific reports of rape and sexual violence continue to emerge.”

The number of displaced people in Sudan now eclipses other war-torn countries with massive internal displacements, including the next highest country Syria (with 6.6 million people), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (6.1 million people) and Ukraine (5.1 million people).

Children play in a playground at a school that has been transformed into a shelter for people displaced by conflict in Sudan's northern border town of Wadi Halfa near Egypt [Getty]

Millions of desperate families fleeing conflict are now sheltering wherever they can find safety, including in schools, in camps, with relatives, and in some cases out in the open. Many families have found themselves displaced multiple times when the place they were seeking safety came under attack.

Prior to the conflict, around 3.2 million people were already displaced in Sudan, in addition to 1.1 million refugees who had also already been living in Sudan.  

Many communities where newly displaced families are arriving are already facing challenges as a result of existing crises, with basic services already overstretched.

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“The war in Sudan shows no signs of abating. In fact, it is getting worse. The cost of inaction is severe," said Dr Arif Noor, Save the Children’s Country Director in Sudan. 

“Millions of displaced children and families need help, now. They need food, water, shelter, clothing, medicines – the absolute basics. Beyond this, they need psychological support to help them cope with the intense stress they are under," Dr Arif added. 

Massive aid funding shortfalls, combined with drastically reduced domestic food production and severe water shortages have left displaced families in a dire situation.

"Children have been on the run for four months now; they have lost family members and have watched their homes and schools, places they once felt safe, become rubble. The situation is critical," said Dr Arif. 

Looting, delays in approvals and attacks on humanitarian assets, including warehouses, have further hampered the relief effort and made delivering essentials to displaced families in some places nearly impossible.

Since the breakout of the war, the Greater Khartoum area — the cities of Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum North — has become a battleground, with airstrikes and shelling taking place in densely populated areas.

There were reports of rape and gang rape in Khartoum and Darfur, mostly blamed on the Rapid Support Forces. The RSF and its allied Arab militias were also accused by the U.N. and international rights groups of atrocities in Darfur, which was the scene of a genocidal campaign in the early 2000s.