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July 14, 2023

Sudan Crisis Explained

On April 15th, 2023, violent clashes erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan, resulting in the displacement of over 3.3 million people, including internally displaced people (IDPs), asylum seekers and refugees. This conflict exacerbated many of Sudan’s existing challenges, including ongoing conflicts, disease outbreaks, economic and political instability and climate emergencies. 

Here’s what you need to know about the situation in Sudan, where people are fleeing and how you can help.


When did the crisis in Sudan begin?

Before the current conflict, Sudan had already been grappling with violence and displacement since the onset of the Darfur crisis in 2003. By the end of 2022, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) surpassed 3.7 million, with the majority residing in camps in Darfur. Approximately 800,000 Sudanese individuals were living as refugees in neighboring countries such as Chad, South Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia.

Prior to the current conflict, Sudan was home to more than 1 million refugees — the second-highest refugee population in Africa — most of whom were from South Sudan and Northern Ethiopia, with many fleeing conflict in Tigray.

The recent fighting between the SAF and RFS occurred when Sudan was already experiencing its highest levels of humanitarian need in a decade.

The removal of long-time authoritarian leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019 had initially sparked great optimism for a return to civilian rule in Sudan. But, a military coup two years later dissolved the transitional civilian government, triggering political and economic turmoil and reigniting intercommunal conflicts. Sudan has also been heavily impacted by severe weather events linked to climate change, including floods and droughts. These events have adversely affected hundreds of thousands of individuals throughout the country, leading to crop and livestock destruction and exacerbating food insecurity for families.

Since the recent clashes began on April 15th, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated. In the first two weeks of fighting, the country faced extreme shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel. Prices of basic goods also rose by 40 to 100 percent, with bottled water being sold at twice the usual price and fuel prices skyrocketing from $4.20 USD to $67 USD per gallon.

Additionally, in the first four weeks of the conflict, nearly 200,000 refugees and returnees fled the country, while another 700,000 people were internally displaced within Sudan.

Where are people impacted by the conflict fleeing to?

The lack of basic necessities, combined with violence and uncertainty, has forced many people to flee their homes. 

According to UNHCR, as of July 21, 2023, more than 3.3 million people have been displaced. This includes 2.6 million people displaced within Sudan and 738,000 others who fled to neighboring countries.

Chad has received the largest number of people (260,390), followed by Egypt (255,565), South Sudan (178,560), Ethiopia (26,801) and Central African Republic (17,227). In South Sudan, most of those arriving are returning nationals who had been living in Sudan as refugees.

Without a resolution to the crisis, hundreds of thousands more people will be compelled to flee in search of refuge and basic assistance. UNHCR and its partners estimate that the number of refugees and returnees could reach 860,000 by October 2023.

Which groups are vulnerable due to displacement and conflict? 

The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan is having a devastating impact on women and children. According to UN estimates, even before fighting broke, more than 3 million women and girls in Sudan were at risk of gender-based violence, including intimate-partner violence. This number has climbed to an estimated 4.2 million people since April 2023.

“Our teams in the region describe horrific ordeals being faced by forcibly displaced women and girls when fleeing Sudan,” says Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “This shocking array of human rights violations must stop. Help to support survivors and those at risk is urgent, but so far, funding is falling extremely short.”

Attacks on healthcare facilities, equipment and workers are further depriving women and girls of lifesaving care, with pregnant women hardest hit, according to the World Health Organization and UNFPA. Out of the estimated 11 million people in Sudan who need urgent health assistance, more than 2.6 million are women and girls of reproductive age. In addition, an estimated 262,880 women are pregnant, more than 90,000 will give birth in the next three months and will need access to critical reproductive health services.

What is the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, doing to help those displaced by the conflict?

UNHCR emergency teams are tirelessly working with authorities, partners and other UN agencies to provide support to newcomers, establish transit centers for rest and access to essential protection services, and distribute emergency supplies such as blankets, soap and mosquito nets.

Inside Sudan, UNHCR is assisting both refugees and internally displaced people with shelter, non-food items and protection, as the security situation allows. UNHCR is also supporting education programming for children who have been displaced. 

How you can help …

UNHCR is urgently calling on the international community for funding to respond to the mounting crisis.

“The needs are vast, and the challenges are numerous,” says Raouf Mazou, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations. “If the crisis continues, peace and stability across the region could be at stake.”

Your support can make a world of difference to those who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict in Sudan. By becoming a monthly donor, you can help ensure vital lifesaving aid, protection, and hope are delivered to those in need.