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Humanitarian impact of the war in Sudan (2023–present)

The humanitarian crisis following the 2023 Sudan conflict was further exacerbated by the violence occurring during a period of high temperatures, drought and the conflict starting during the latter part of the fasting month of Ramadan. Most residents were unable to venture outside of their homes to obtain food and supplies for fear of getting caught in the crossfire. A doctors' group said that hospitals remained understaffed and were running low on supplies as wounded people streamed in.[1] The World Health Organization recorded around 26 attacks on healthcare facilities, some of which resulted in casualties among medical workers and civilians.[2] The Sudanese Doctors' Union said more than two-thirds of hospitals in conflict areas were out of service with 32 forcibly evacuated by soldiers or caught in the crossfire.[3] The United Nations reported that shortages of basic goods, such as food, water, medicines and fuel have become "extremely acute".[4] The delivery of badly-needed remittances from overseas migrant workers was also halted after Western Union announced it was closing all operations in Sudan until further notice.[5]

The World Food Programme (WFP) said that more than $13 million worth of food aid destined for Sudan had been looted since the fighting broke out.[6] An estimated 25 million people, equivalent to more than half of Sudan’s population, were said to be in need of aid.[7] In February 2024, the WFP struggles to provide aid, and there are already reports of people dying from starvation.[8]



The fighting in Khartoum left some of its five million residents stranded in their homes without electricity or water for days. On 17 April, the Sudan Medical Association said that bombs struck al-Shaab Hospital and al-Khartoum Hospital, forcing both hospitals to stop the services of their emergency departments.[9] The Sudan Doctors' Union said that 52 hospitals went out of service in the capital and adjacent areas, equating to about 70% of hospitals in the region. Nine hospitals were bombed, and 19 were subject to forced evacuation, while five ambulances had been attacked by military forces.[10] The union later told the BBC that only five hospitals were functioning in Khartoum, all of which were facing exhausted staff and major shortages of oxygen and life-saving drugs. Other hospitals were taken over by the warring parties either to shelter their fighters or for other military purposes.[11] The Sudanese government accused the RSF of seizing 12 hospitals[12] while civilian resistance committees said 22 hospitals in Khartoum were taken over by the RSF.[13] At least five ambulance crews were attacked while on duty.[14] The association described the attacks as a clear violation of international humanitarian law and called on the international community to help.[15] The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the warring sides seized ambulances.[16] The vice president of the Sudan Doctors' Trade Union told Al Jazeera that doctors and other healthcare personnel were finding it very difficult to reach hospitals because the major bridges on the Nile were blockaded.[17]

Residents were asked to limit their electricity usage as the state's distribution authority said the servers that manage online purchases of power were out of service and engineers could not reach them because it was too dangerous.[18] Two water plants were reportedly damaged in the fighting,[19] forcing residents to collect water directly from the Nile River instead.[20] A grassroots movement using the hashtag #NoToWar offered people food, medication and information about safety routes to escape the city.[21]

The Sudan Animal Rescue Centre, whose sanctuary is located southeast of the capital near a military base that saw heavy fighting, warned that the situation at its facility was "critical", with no permanent staff to take care of its 25 lions and other animals, shortages of food and no electricity to power electric barriers for its enclosures.[22]

On 19 April, the RSF announced that it had set up a call center in areas it controlled in Khartoum to receive distress calls from residents.[23]

On 28 April, Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights accused the RSF of evicting people from their residences during the fighting in Khartoum.[24]

Archaeologists, artists, museum workers and heritage advocates also raised concern over the status of the National Museum of Sudan, which was the scene of heavy fighting between the SAF and the RSF and was taken over by the RSF on 2 June. Archaeologists monitoring the site noted fire damage on the building during the fighting.[25] Other cultural institutions such as the Natural History Museum of Sudan, the Mohamed Omer Bashir Center for Sudanese Studies at Omdurman Ahlia University, the Abdallah Khalil museum were also destroyed or looted during the conflict.[26][27]

The RSF was also accused of harassing pro-democracy artists during the conflict.[28]


The governor of North Darfur called the humanitarian situation in the region dire.[29] The Project Coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the state's capital El-Fasher said that the only remaining hospital in North Darfur was "rapidly running out of medical supplies to treat survivors" while other hospitals have had to close due to their proximity to the fighting or the inability of staff to get to the facilities because of the violence.[30] MSF said that its compound in Nyala, South Darfur, had been raided by armed men who "stole everything including vehicles and office equipment".[31]

Save the Children said that the charity's compound in Darfur was looted by armed men, saying staff were not hurt but medical supplies were taken, as well as food and laptops.[32] Islamic Relief's office in Central Darfur was looted by armed men, and cars were stolen.[33] The World Food Programme reported the deaths of three of its employees and the looting of its facilities and vehicles during clashes at Kabkabiya, North Darfur.[34] United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said that they were "receiving reports of attacks and sexual violence against aid workers", adding that the UN aid office in South Darfur was looted on 17 April.[35] A car carrying employees of the Norwegian Refugee Council was attacked in El-Fasher on 20 April but there were no injuries.[36] A hospital supported by MSF in Geneina was looted during fighting on 26–28 April.[37] On 3 May, Griffiths said that six trucks belonging to the World Food Programme were looted in Darfur.[38] In June, the Sudanese Health Ministry said all hospitals in West Darfur had been closed due to the fighting.[39]

Effects on relief organizations

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it is nearly impossible to provide humanitarian services around Khartoum, and warned that Sudan's health system is at risk of collapse.[40] The World Food Programme (WFP) confirmed that one of its aircraft had been damaged at Khartoum International Airport during an exchange of gunfire on 15 April, which it says impacted its ability to move staff and provide assistance to people across the country.[34]

An internal UN document seen by CNN stated that armed personnel, reportedly from the RSF, stormed the homes of people working for the UN and other international organizations in downtown Khartoum, sexually assaulting women and stealing belongings including cars. One incident of rape was reported. Two Nigerian men working for an international organization were abducted and later released; a building housing the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was targeted; and a rocket-propelled grenade hit the home of a local UN staff member in Khartoum. The RSF denied the claims, blaming the Sudanese military for committing the crimes while wearing RSF uniforms. In turn, the SAF denied involvement and blamed the RSF.[31] The United Nations said that the fighting had "totally shut down" its work in Sudan and affected one-third of the country's population.[41]

Due to attacks against their staff and facilities, Save the Children, WFP, Islamic Relief and the Danish Refugee Council suspended their operations in Sudan.[34][42][31][36] Fifty-seven Sudanese aid workers and 20 Indian workers were relocated from Sudan to Chad.[43]

On 30 April, the Red Cross sent its first aid delivery to Sudan by air since the conflict began, ferrying eight tonnes of humanitarian cargo from Amman, Jordan to Port Sudan.[44] The World Food Programme resumed operations on 1 May.[45]


Medecins Sans Frontieres said that measles outbreaks had broken out in refugee camps, with at least 13 deaths recorded.[46] Aid groups later reported measles outbreaks in 11 of Sudan's 18 states, while Islamic Relief reported 300 cases and 7 deaths from cholera and diarrhea.[47]

It has been reported that thousands of decomposing corpses on the streets of Khartoum may lead to an epidemic.[48]


The United Nations said in December that the fighting in Sudan had produced more than 1.5 million refugees, while more than five million had been internally displaced.[49] It also said that all of Sudan's 18 states experienced displacement, with most refugees coming from Khartoum, which accounted for about 69 percent of the total number of displaced people,[50] followed by West Darfur with more than 17 percent.[51] The UN projected that the total number of refugees fleeing Sudan could reach 1.8 million people.[52]


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  3. ^ "More than 60% of hospitals out of service". Aljazeera. 22 April 2023. Archived from the original on 20 April 2023. Retrieved 23 April 2023.
  4. ^ Uras, Umut (25 April 2023). "Supply shortages becoming 'extremely acute' – UN". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 25 April 2023. Retrieved 25 April 2023.
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  12. ^ "Sudan's RSF 'occupying 12 hospitals' – ministry". BBC News. Retrieved 28 April 2023.
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  17. ^ "Doctors sound alarm over health crisis". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 18 April 2023. Retrieved 18 April 2023.
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  21. ^ "Sudan fighting: The unsung heroes keeping Khartoum residents alive". BBC News. 21 April 2023. Archived from the original on 21 April 2023. Retrieved 21 April 2023.
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  26. ^ "Sudan's cultural treasures destroyed in conflict". DW News. 15 June 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
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  28. ^ "Sudan conflict: pro-democracy artists under attack and museums at risk of looting, sources say". The Art Newspaper. 27 April 2023. Retrieved 1 May 2023.
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  52. ^ "7 million people internally displaced in Sudan: IOM". Sudan Tribune. 5 September 2023.
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Humanitarian impact of the war in Sudan (2023–present)
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