Sudan braces for rainy season as humanitarian disaster looms
Stuck between disbelief, trauma, and the irreparable shock of losing loved ones, the Sudanese people are trapped in a dangerous war that shows no signs of slowing down.
The fierce fighting between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF) over the last two months has caused massive destruction in the country. Over 1.2 million people have been internally displaced and over 400,000 to neighbouring countries.
While the capital Khartoum remains the centre of the battlefield, large concentrations of people have been pushed into the high-flood risk states of White Nile, North Kordofan, and Al Jazirah.
"Around 25 million people in Sudan – more than half of the country’s population – need humanitarian aid"
Over 349,000 people across Sudan were affected by floods in 2022. Fears are mounting that even more people will be affected this year due to the current crisis.
“The rain has already started in Sudan. It will get worse by the end of June,” Aida Elsaid, Secretary General of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society based in Port Sudan told The New Arab. “Many have been pushed outside of Khartoum into those really risky areas. There is no possibility for them to return to the capital.”
The majority of the water supply system has been damaged across the country due to fighting and electricity disruptions have also made it difficult to pump the water. “There is a breakdown in the availability of fresh water. People are taking water directly from the Nile,” Robert Vokes, Director of Programs at Mercy Corps Sudan said.
“There are also reports of corpses on streets. This runs a much higher risk of waterborne diseases,” he added.
In Al Jazirah state, overcrowded humanitarian camps are struggling to provide the necessary support for internally displaced people (IDPs) amid electricity and water shortages.
“We started with about 80 camps in Wad Madani a week after the war started, but that number has now dropped to 23 camps for IDPs,” said Dr Alaa Adil, Medical Director of the Sudanese American Physicians Association (SAPA). “There is a total of about 500 to 600 people in each of those camps. There are a lot of gun injury and trauma cases.”
Dr Alaa added that fears are growing about the spread of infectious diseases with the rainy season fast approaching. “We are really worried about the spread of gastroenteritis, cholera, and other infectious diseases such as meningitis, especially among children.”
Risk of major humanitarian disaster at Chad border
The number of Sudanese people fleeing the violence to Chad alone has now topped 100,000, with thousands more on the move from the Darfur region, according to UNHCR.
Aid agencies are scrambling to build new refugee camps, and humanitarian access remains extremely fragile at the Chad border.
“The border with Chad is not secure. There is fighting close to the border. We are trying to evacuate wounded people to get treatment and we have also been kicked back. Our aid ambulances are being targeted with gunshots,” Sudanese Red Crescent Society’s Aida Elsaid said.
"Over 349,000 people across Sudan were affected by floods in 2022"
Being one of the poorest countries in the world, Chad has little to offer. Before the latest crisis in Sudan, Chad already hosted nearly 589,000 refugees from Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Nigeria among others.
The country was also affected by some of the heaviest floods in decades in 2022 with over one million people displaced.
“Those who have managed to cross into Chad are sleeping on the ground in those makeshift camps. We are hearing reports of scorpion and snake bites,” Aida said.
“They (RSF) broke all our house doors and stole everything. Our car, our gold. They even took our clothes,” Ola Adil from Kafouri, north Khartoum told The New Arab.
The 25-year-old Electrical Engineering graduate was excited about her new job which she started last February.
“I was living my mother alone. After 10 days into the war, we had no other choice. We decided to travel to Egypt.” Ola said she got to know from her uncle who stayed behind to protect their belongings that her house was looted last week. “Those RSFs are now staying at my home as if it’s their own. They also looted my uncle’s car showroom.”
It’s not just houses and cars that are being looted. Over 160 trucks have also been stolen from aid organizations. The World Food Programme says their 17,000 MT of food aid has been lost.
Around 25 million people in Sudan – more than half of the country’s population – need humanitarian aid. That figure has grown by nine million since the beginning of the war on April 15.
And in a country where many people, including a record number of children, are already at risk of starvation, resources are scarce and hard to come by.
Latest figures from Sudan’s Doctor’s Trade Union show at least 70% of hospitals in conflict areas in and around Khartoum are no longer functioning.
Khartoum has been the hub of Sudan’s healthcare system with specialist hospitals and medicinal suppliers. However, non-stop fighting and widespread looting for more than 7-weeks in the capital has brought the country’s health system to its knees.
Twenty-one hospitals in Sudan have been forcibly evacuated, and 17 hospitals have suffered aerial or land bombings, with several ambulances attacked.
Hospitals which are partially functioning face severe shortages of oxygen supplies, blood bags, water and fuel, the Doctor’s Trade Union said.
More than 1,800 people have been killed in Sudan since the beginning of the war, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.
Exact figures are feared to be higher as doctors are unable to carry out the assessments due to security concerns. “Our hospitals and camps are working at the maximum capacity. But we are still struggling to manage even emergency cases,” said Dr Alaa from SAPA. “We are desperately trying to stabilize the situation before the rainy season.”
Darshan Dalal is a journalist based in London
Follow him on Twitter: @darshandalal98