· Vatican City ·

In war-torn Sudan, every other person needs humanitarian aid

 In war-torn Sudan, every other person  needs humanitarian aid  ING-007
16 February 2024

At least 13 Sudanese migrants died and 27 others are missing after their boat sank in the Mediterranean off Tunisia’s coast last week as it tried to reach Europe. They were fleeing violence and a catastrophic humanitarian situation triggered by the outbreak of civil war in Sudan almost 10 months ago. With over 15,000 Sudanese lives lost and 10 million displaced, the devastating impact of the conflict in Sudan has been laid bare. cafod (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) Sudan, a partner of Caritas, the Catholic Church’s aid organization, is among the humanitarian agencies struggling to provide basic necessities to a population in which “every other person” needs humanitarian assistance.

Samiullah Danish, Programme Development and Funding Officer for cafod Sudan, spoke to Vatican Media about the desperate crisis and how the international community has forgotten the African nation. “This conflict has robbed people of nearly everything, their safety, their homes, and their livelihoods.”

The recent expansion of fighting, particularly in Gezira State, once considered Sudan’s breadbasket, has led to one of the world’s largest displacement and protection crises. Intense hostilities have not only damaged water supply networks but also crippled health facilities, leaving three-quarters of them non-operational in conflict-affected areas. The resulting diseases, including cholera, measles, and malaria, are spreading rapidly.

Amid this dire situation, cafod has been actively assisting on the ground. “We have not forgotten the people of Sudan,” Mr. Danish reiterated. “Despite challenges such as insecurity, bureaucratic obstacles, and poor network access, cafod operates from its hub office in White Nile State, delivering crucial services in partnership with local organizations.”

The focus has been on emergency water, sanitation, and hygiene (wash) services, including the construction and rehabilitation of communal latrines and water network support. Food distribution to internally displaced persons (idps) and plans for cash distribution in the coming months demonstrate cafod’s commitment to addressing immediate needs.

However, Mr. Danish noted, the scale of the crisis demands more. “Since the war started, hunger is at a record high of 24.8 million people, or every second person, needing humanitarian assistance in 2024 — 9 million more than 2023.”

Urgent needs span food, water, shelter, fuel, education, healthcare, and nutrition. Despite efforts from humanitarian actors, including the UN, the shortfall is evident, especially for internally displaced persons who have lost homes and face daily survival challenges.

As the conflict fades from international attention, Mr. Danish expressed the sentiment felt by many Sudanese citizens. “People in Sudan feel as if the regional states and the international community have decided to abandon the country.”

Amid the collapse of state institutions and no mediation attempts between combatants, “there has been more involvement by some of the outside actors in the region who support the rsf and its leaders without considering the needs of Sudanese people, without paying too much attention to the security and well-being of the Sudanese people.”

Regarding peace talks, Mr. Danish expressed pessimism. Although attempts by the United States and Saudi Arabia have been made, he believes they have not borne fruit. The recent “Ababa Declaration, which was intended to serve as the basis for further negotiations”, remains largely on paper, with verbal commitments unmet.

Decrying the absence of a clear roadmap toward peace, cafod Sudan’s Development Officer explained that “the people of Sudan, at different levels, have been trying their best to advocate for peace efforts and divert the attention of the international community towards Sudan in bringing the two parties around one table.” (L. Bordoni)

By Linda Bordoni