Sudan: Three things you need to know

10 May 2024

In one of the worst humanitarian crises the world has seen in decades, Sudan is facing a colossal, man-made catastrophe. 

One year into the ongoing war between the government-led Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), more than eight million people have been forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations. Over half of the country’s population is estimated to be in dire need of humanitarian assistance.


Patients at an MSF clinic in Zamzam camp, Sudan, home to more then 300,000 internally displaced persons. A rapid nutrition and mortality assessment carried out by MSF in Zamzam camp in January 2024 revealed that a deadly situation has unfolded since the beginning of the war one year ago. February 2024 © MSF

Despite the extreme needs, the crisis is occurring largely out of the global consciousness, as other issues have taken precedence. The world is looking away as the warring parties intentionally block humanitarian access and the delivery of aid to those caught in the violence.


1. The global response is woefully inadequate

While the crisis in Sudan is occurring largely out of the headlines, the impact is extraordinary. In February, the United Nations estimated that more than 25 million people—roughly equivalent to the entire population of Australia—are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. This includes 14 million children.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is one of the few humanitarian organisations that has been able to work in some of the worst affected areas, such as the capital Khartoum, and areas of Darfur and Jazirah state. Yet we have faced constant political blockages to bringing staff and supplies to the places they are needed. The humanitarian assistance provided by MSF and other organisations is merely a drop in the ocean. 

Sudan’s crisis epitomises a catastrophic failure of humanity, marked by the warring parties’ failing to protect civilians or facilitate essential humanitarian access, and by the dire neglect and shortcomings of international organisations in delivering an adequate response.

Dr Christos Christou
MSF International President

2. Up to 80 per cent of health facilities are no longer functioning

The health system, already fragile before the conflict started, is struggling to cope with the existing and emerging medical needs that come from living in an active conflict zone. In addition to the overwhelming pressure from the destruction and looting of health facilities, teams are also facing shortages of utilities and medical supplies, and under-resourced health staff are working long hours, without pay. These conditions mean that patients face significant challenges in accessing care throughout the country—for many, by the time they are able to access adequate treatment, their condition has become critical.

Every day we see patients dying because of violence-related injuries, children perishing due to malnutrition and the lack of vaccines, women with complications after unsafe deliveries, patients who have experienced sexual violence, and people with chronic diseases who cannot access their medicines,” says Jean Stowell, MSF head of mission in Sudan. “Despite all this, there is an extremely disturbing humanitarian void.”

Only around 20 per cent of health facilities in the Darfur region are still functioning. There is a widespread shortage of critical supplies such as vaccines, nutrition essentials, and HIV medications, as well as a poor disease surveillance system. Overcrowded and dire conditions in refugee camps are increasing the risk of disease outbreaks, while people with chronic conditions are struggling to access the care and medicines they need to survive.

In addition to acute health needs, a mass screening conducted in March and April confirmed that there is a catastrophic and life-threatening malnutrition crisis in Zamzam camp, North Darfur. Of the more than 46,000 children who were screened, a staggering 30 per cent were found to be suffering from acute malnutrition. Despite having called for urgent support in February, MSF remains one of the only international aid agencies responding to this enormous crisis. 

The conflict ravaging Sudan is unspeakable. We find ourselves escaping one war zone only to enter another conflict here in South Sudan. We're in dire need of help and wish for our plight to be known. The future remains uncertain, especially for our children…

Mohammad Abakar
Refugee from Darfur

3. Huge numbers of refugees are fleeing to surrounding countries, increasing the scope of the need

As people flee violence and face shortages of food and drinking water, hundreds of thousands have fled Sudan into bordering countries. 

Since the war broke out last year, an estimated 682,000 displaced refugees have crossed the border into Chad and are now living in camps, facing difficulties securing even the most basic needs. But these neighbouring communities are struggling with the increased population: in the camps of eastern Chad, exacerbated by poor sanitation and lack of clean water, there is currently an outbreak hepatitis E, and in Adré camp, there is just one latrine for 677 people. 

MSF is currently providing more than 70 per cent of the drinking water available in Adré, Aboutengue, Metché, and Al-Acha camps, but despite this assistance, people are receiving just 11 litres of clean water per day—well below the 20 litres per person per day recommended for emergency settings. 

In South Sudan, more than 625,000 people have crossed the border from Sudan to seek refuge. The majority of these people are South Sudanese returnees—people returning to South Sudan after having fled to Sudan during South Sudan’s civil war, which ended in 2021. 

The influx of displaced people has further stretched an already overwhelmed system. In the transit centres, the situation is only getting worse, with increasing food insecurity and health issues such as severe malaria cases, eye infections, acute bloody diarrhea, and the rising risk of cholera.

MSF is calling on organisations and governments to urgently scale up their response to the vast humanitarian needs caused by war in Sudan and on the warring parties to honour commitments to stop violence against humanitarian workers, stop blocking vital supplies and facilitate access to people in need.

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