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Over the years, people have always found themselves on the move for various reasons, ranging from economic and political causes to cultural, religious, and environmental grounds. Individuals are often compelled to go on a path of forced migration in a world where unanticipated catastrophes, such as war or natural disasters, may uproot whole communities. 


In recent years, there has been a considerable rise in the number of people forced to flee their homes, either internally or across international boundaries. This is what has, and is still going on, in Sudan as many people continue to seek safe places away from the violence.


Sudanese on the Run


On April 15, 2023, violent clashes erupted in Sudan between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). This conflict's devastating consequences have resulted in a catastrophic loss of lives, with thousands of deaths recorded. 

Statistics of migration and displacement as of 13th Feb 2024. Source: OCHA


Furthermore, the United Nations has indicated that over 1.61 million people have been forced to seek safety abroad, while 6.1 million people have been internally displaced in various parts of the country. The UN migration agency issued a statement in response to the catastrophic situation, emphasizing the massive magnitude of displacement caused by the Sudan war.


The effect on civilians has been nothing short of disastrous; in a heartbreaking turn of events, people were forced to flee their homes in search of safe sanctuaries. Sudan is currently undergoing one of the world's most serious and quickly growing internal displacement problems. According to recent reports from Sudan - (Sudan – Six months of crisis and forced displacement (, the situation in Sudan has reached unprecedented levels.


Internal Displacement in Context


A large number of people have been internally displaced, with the bulk coming from Khartoum and Darfur. These displaced people have sought sanctuary in numerous places, including River Nile state, Sennar, White Nile State, Red Sea State, and Northern State. They are either residing in displacement shelters, with family or renting housing. 

An agricultural centre in Sudan's Al Qadarif state that was turned into a temporary home for families that fled Khartoum. Source: UNHCR/Ala Kheir


A considerable proportion of people lack access to essentials such as food, water, housing, power, education, and health care. In recent developments, the congestion of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) destinations has put enormous strain on the already fragile health systems.


Furthermore, with the arrival of the rainy season in 2023, circumstances in displacement camps deteriorated, since flooding has resulted in an increase in water-borne infections. Reports from around the nation are indicating a worrying scenario in IDP camps, where inadequate sanitation and sub-optimal infectious disease control measures are being blamed for outbreaks of cholera, diarrhea, dengue fever, malaria, and even scabies.


This concerning development alarmed both authorities and the general population. During my interviews with some of the Sudanese, they had various experiences of how the movement to seek safety has affected them. S.A (not her real name), relates the horrific story of her cousin's fight with Malaria in a heart-breaking description.


My cousin was infected with Malaria. He has previously been diagnosed with malaria and treated, but this time around, he tragically passed away because we couldn’t supply him with the required antimalarial medication in the village they escaped to”.


The surge of Internally Displaced Persons has put a strain on the thus far fragile system and has led to people losing their lives for very preventable issues. "My uncle suffered from kidney failure and had migrated to Madani first," S.M (not his real name) recounts. He and his family were eventually forced to migrate to Port Sudan due to a paucity of medical services available to patients in Madani. “We had no idea that Port-Sudan had the same problem. He unfortunately eventually passed away" He added. "A dear friend of mine is battling cancer," F.A. adds, recalling that his friend travelled to four different states to acquire this treatment while being displaced from Khartoum.

Displaced people fleeing from Wad Madani in Sudan's Jazira state arrive in Gedaref. Source: AFP


The relocating process itself was costly, dire, and time-consuming. Individuals found themselves compelled to abandon all their possessions and drain their financial resources to find refuge around the country and ensure their survival. According to S.M., "I have depleted all of my savings to escape the war zone. Because I left behind all of my belongings, I must be cautious with my remaining finances.


Nonetheless, many people, especially those in the medical field, were relieved by the fact that they were able to go to safer areas without being tortured or abducted. The RSF deliberately targeted medical workers and forced them to treat their patients.


According to S.A., "I had to hide my blood pressure monitoring device when I was on the way to flee to Port-Sudan. I knew if RSF saw it they would have known I was in the medical field, and they would have kidnapped me”.


Seeking Safety across the Border


Before the conflict, the majority of Sudanese refugees lived in South Sudan (290,000), Chad (410,000), Ethiopia (50,000), and Egypt (60,000). The continuous violence has exacerbated these figures, causing them to rise. 

New arrivals fleeing the conflict in Sudan gather at the Joda border crossing in South Sudan, awaiting onward transportation to the transit site in Renk. Source: © UNHCR/Ala Kheir


The vast majority of Sudanese who crossed the national border sought refuge in nearby countries like Chad, South Sudan, Egypt, Uganda, and Kenya. These countries continue to receive thousands of new Sudanese refugees until today.


The conditions at the borders are very poor and excessively congested. Refugees reside in improvised housings with restricted availability of fundamental amenities such as water, healthcare, and sustenance. A significant number of individuals have documented the fatalities of their immediate family members at the borders as a result of inadequate healthcare.

They continue to hold out hope that this situation will be resolved quickly, enabling them to return to their beloved motherland and resume their usual daily activities. Nonetheless, because of the lengthy waiting time, inadequate cash, and terrible border conditions, some people have been forced to return to Sudan early.

Aziza Harba Idriss, from Sudan, rigs up some shade to protect her family from the scorching sun at the transit centre in Renk. Source: UNHCR/Samuel Otieno


As a result of the violence, slightly more than 20,000 refugees from nations other than Sudan have fled the country that had previously housed them. The bulk are Eritreans and South Sudanese who have fled to Ethiopia and Egypt.

The Unknown Aftermath of Displacement


Whether people relocate inside Sudan or evacuate from the nation, the repercussions may be deemed detrimental either way, especially in terms of social impact. Family and friends have been separated, uncertain of when they will get the opportunity to reunite. How long will it take? Will it be a matter of weeks, months, or the dreaded possibility of years?


While the challenges are immense and the road ahead is uncertain, amidst all the turmoil, resilience shines as a beacon of hope. The solidarity among families and neighbors and growing networks of mutual aid and comfort play a significant role in overcoming the conflict induced shock. Furthermore, some Sudanese psychiatrists and therapists began offering free online mental support sessions for those affected. These are just a few examples of the many ways in which Sudanese people are seeking to adapt to the new circumstances that have been forced upon them.


It's time for us to start to amplify their stories of strength and perseverance amid chaos and make their voices heard around the globe. People around the world should stand in solidarity with the Sudanese people and advocate for bolstering humanitarian aid and unimpeded access to aid. Moreover, diplomatic pressure should be exerted on countries financing and funding the war to cease their support, thereby fostering an environment for sustainable peace.


Above all, we must emphasize the fundamental principle of human rights reaffirming our commitment to justice, equality, and the inherent dignity of all individuals affected by conflict.

Sara Bashir

Sara Bashir is a pharmacist, researcher, and public health practitioner. She is an advocate of addressing health challenges exacerbated by conflict and war. She is committed to evidence-based policymaking and utilizes her expertise to research and devise strategies aimed at advancing Sustainable Development Goals 2 and 3, particularly in conflict-affected regions. Fluent in Arabic, English, and German, Sara is also passionate about learning foreign languages