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FLASH ALERT: REFUGEE ORGANIZATIONS BE ON ALERT, RISK OF LARGE-SCALE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN SUDAN

Naomi Whipps, Alina Papke, Tejas Vaidya, Marisol Negrete, WATCH/GSOC

Iris Hautaniemi Forsberg, Editor; Julie Jones, Senior Editor

November 14, 2023


Displaced People in Darfur, Sudan[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in Sudan and in neighboring countries, and citizens of Sudan amid the ongoing armed conflict escalation in Sudan. The fight over state control and resources began in April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF).[2] Last week 8000 people fled to Chad and the death toll rose to 800 in the Darfur region. The ongoing clashes are exacerbating human rights violations in Darfur. The current conflict risks a full-scale civil war and destabilizes neighboring countries.[3] An immediate ceasefire and population protection are crucial to stop the ongoing humanitarian crisis.


CTG is on HIGH alert for the safety and security of Sudanese civilians fleeing the escalating violence within the Darfur region. The flood of refugees from Sudan into neighboring countries will almost certainly strain the country’s resources and emergency response infrastructure. Refugee camps within Sudan will almost certainly face further violence and instability. The continued conflict will almost certainly make it difficult for NGOs and the UNHCR to provide humanitarian aid to people within Sudan. Internally and externally displaced people are likely to experience human rights violations and lack of basic supplies. If the humanitarian crisis in Sudan and the neighboring country’s refugee camps continues to escalate, it will almost certainly threaten the stability throughout Northeastern Africa.


The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) originated under the Al-Bashir dictatorship to fight in the Darfur conflict and repress southern Sudanese rebels. The Darfur War broke out in 2003, killing over 200,000 people and in addition, more than 100,000 have died since 2005.[4] The current armed conflict in Darfur started between Sudan’s military and the RSF in mid-April, with heavy fighting concentrated in the capital of Khartoum. The RSF attacked over 26 communities in South Darfur, displacing 668,000 citizens. These attacks showed a pattern of violence against non-Arab communities.[5]


In early November, fighters from the RSF and allied Arab militias conducted a multi-day attack against the Darfur town of Ardamata, killing over 800 people. They burned around 100 shelters and stole humanitarian aid supplies provided by the UNHCR. Increased conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region has caused many civilians to flee the country to neighboring Chad. Over 8,000 refugees have entered Chad since the start of November. The UNHCR also cited reports of the RSF committing human rights violations in Darfur, including sexual violence, torture, and targeting of specific ethnic groups.[6] The conflict has displaced over 6 million people.[7] The UNHCR has called for an immediate end to the fighting and begun work with the government of Chad to prepare for the flood of refugees.[8]


The refugee influx will very likely heighten the demand for food, clean water, shelter, sanitation and medical facilities, and medical treatment apparatus. The presence of hostile militants in Sudan, Chad, and neighboring Niger, Nigeria, and Central Republic of Africa regions will very likely compromise transportation systems and critical infrastructure. This will very likely hamper the rapid delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid to the displaced population. Refugees will likely have open wounds, bullet injuries, burns, and symptoms associated with sexual violence, very likely requiring specialized medical response. Displacement, loss of homes, and disrupted social structures will almost certainly contribute to trauma, stress, and mental health issues in the population. Mental health issues will very likely require long-term psychosocial support and humanitarian welfare programs to reinstate affected communities’ social fabric.


The conflict will very likely collapse the health system in Darfur, since attacks destroyed dozens of hospitals and targeted health workers.[9] The healthcare shortage will very likely worsen the increased epidemic risk. The destruction of critical infrastructure, such as water supply, sanitation, and power facilities will very likely limit epidemic control.[10] Recently ongoing disease outbreaks such as cholera, dengue, malaria, and increasing children's measles outbreaks combined with malnutrition will likely spread to more localities, and increase the current death rate.[11] Restriction on freedom of movement and systematic attacks on humanitarian facilities will unlikely enable the delivery of humanitarian and medical aid. The damaged communication infrastructure will very likely hinder humanitarian aid access to civilians, and limit the reach of humanitarian aid organizations. The epidemic risk in an overstretched health system, the difficulty of vital medical supplies, and malnutrition will almost certainly deteriorate the population’s health conditions.


The area along the White Nile River, the Eastern States region on the east of Khartoum, and the Port of Sudan are the nearest, accessible, and safest places in Sudan, likely making them the main refugee hotspots.[12] Ongoing clashes increase the risk of spreading instability through the flow of refugees and the expansion of humanitarian crises in neighboring countries.


Sudan’s escalating conflict will almost certainly worsen Sudan's food insecurity crisis. The armed conflict will very likely increase Sudan’s highest rate of child malnutrition in the world. The ongoing clashes will very likely increase food prices since the armed conflict disrupts commercial activity and food availability. Thousands of farmers fleeing their lands will very likely worsen food shortages. Critical infrastructure destruction, community displacement, and the use of heavy weaponry will very likely amplify the environmental damage caused by climate change.[13] This adverse environmental damage will very likely impact pastoralism and, therefore, deepen Sudan’s food security crisis.

  • CTG recommends the UNHCR collaborate with the neighboring governments to build temporary shelters in safe locations to accommodate refugees, focusing on security, general well-being, hygiene, and medical and psychological treatments, and continue to provide humanitarian aid to the Sudanese refugee camps.

  • CTG recommends the UNHCR and international NGOS boost fundraising efforts to financially assist the refugee camps.

  • CTG recommends the UNHCR to provide reproductive health services and supplies to women within the refugee camps.

  • CTG recommends the UNHCR should prepare to treat the affected population for injuries, and burns, closely monitor infections, and diseases, implement preventive measures to mitigate outbreaks and strengthen healthcare services by deploying medical teams, mobile clinics, and medical supplies.

  • CTG recommends the UNHCR, NGOs, and the Government of Sudan collaborate to develop education programs, vocational training, and initiatives that enhance local governance structures, fostering self-reliance and sustainable development, to empower communities with the required skills and resources to rebuild and thrive.

  • CTG recommends the UNHCR and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) should support legal initiatives by coordinating with local and international partners to ensure human rights violators are held accountable and provide legal aid to victims seeking justice.


CTG assesses that the current threat climate is HIGH, considering the increasing escalation of violence in the Darfur region perpetrated by the RFS adversely affecting civilians. The violence coupled with severe human rights violations leads to massive internal displacement and refugee influx to neighboring countries, strains infrastructural and healthcare needs, and exacerbates the existing food insecurity. The violent nature of the clashes along with the destruction of infrastructure creates difficulties in meeting humanitarian aid needs.


Analysis indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY for continued human rights violations in the context of the armed clashes between the RSF and the SAF, ALMOST CERTAINLY leading to a deterioration of stability in the region. The threat VERY LIKELY stems from internal displacement and refugees fleeing the violence to neighboring countries which VERY UNLIKELY have the capacity to provide the required humanitarian aid. Domestically, food shortages and malnutrition are VERY LIKELY and due to the collapsing healthcare system will ALMOST CERTAINLY contribute to a deterioration of the population’s health condition. In neighboring countries, the influx of Sudanese refugees will LIKELY overstretch the region’s capacities and increase the risk of spreading instability.

 

[2] Power Struggle in Sudan, Council on Foreign Relations, November 2023, https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/power-struggle-sudan

[3] Sudan: UNHCR warns of increasing violence and human rights violations against civilians in Darfur, UNHCR, November 2023, https://www.unhcr.org/news/press-releases/sudan-unhcr-warns-increasing-violence-and-human-rights-violations-against

[4] Power Struggle in Sudan, Council on Foreign Relations, November 2023, https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/power-struggle-sudan

[5] Attacks and displacement spread in Sudan's Darfur, Reuters, July 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/attacks-displacement-spread-sudans-darfur-2023-07-17/

[6] Ibid

[7] Sudan conflict: First victims are children, says senior UNHCR worker, United Nations, November 2023, https://news.un.org/en/audio/2023/11/1143457

[8] Sudan: UNHCR warns Darfur atrocities of 20 years ago may reoccur, United Nations, November 2023, https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/11/1143447

[9] Attacks on Health Workers and Facilities Worsen a Dire Humanitarian Situation in Sudan, USAID, May 2023, https://www.usaid.gov/news-information/press-releases/may-04-2023-attacks-health-workers-and-facilities-worsen-dire-humanitarian-situation-sudan

[10] Yale Humanitarian Research Lab Monitoring Conditions in Sudan, Yale School of Public Health, June 2023, https://ysph.yale.edu/news-article/yale-humanitarian-research-lab-monitoring-conditions-in-sudan/

[11] UNHCR, WHO warn of deteriorating health conditions as 1,200 children die of suspected measles, malnutrition in Sudan, UNHCR, September 2023, https://www.unhcr.org/news/press-releases/unhcr-who-warn-deteriorating-health-conditions-1-200-children-die-suspected

[12] UNHCR Sudan: Overview of Refugees and Asylum Seekers' Movements within and out of Sudan (as of 31 October 2023), UNHCR, November 2023, https://data.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/104787

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