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Four months of conflict has crippled Sudan as mass displacement, disease, and extreme hunger threaten the lives of two million children


September 7, 2023 • 5 min read

GOAL continues to drive life-saving aid delivery despite acute security and logistical challenges amid numerous failed attempts to recommence regional peace negotiations.

More than 4.7 million people in Sudan have been displaced since mid-April, when intense conflict erupted in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. 3.6 million people are now displaced within Sudan, and one million people have fled across international borders seeking refuge. The Sudanese Federal Minister of Health estimates that over 4,000 civilians have been killed in the crossfire. Many civilians remain trapped in Khartoum, the epicenter of the conflict, while others are stranded in North Darfur or South Kordofan – two regions where GOAL is operational.

Sudan’s already weak healthcare system is near collapse due to the conflict and the subsequent staff displacements and medicine shortages. 50% of all medicine manufacturing facilities in Sudan have been looted and destroyed, while 80% of hospitals in the country, which has a population of over 48 million people, are now out of service. Critical services, including state orphanages, the remaining hospitals, and NGO-run nutrition centers, are rapidly running out of food and supplies. These challenges are all exacerbated by the significant damage to infrastructure, including electricity networks, telecommunications, and water supply networks.

Sudan is now also experiencing its rainy season, with many regions experiencing flash flooding. This has resulted in additional displacement as aid workers struggle to access the communities that have been most affected. The rainy season brings with it a heightened risk of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) diseases, such as cholera. Children who have already been weakened by malnutrition are also at risk of contracting vector-borne diseases such as measles, malaria, whooping cough, and dengue fever – cases of which are being reported across the country. It has been reported that nearly 500 children have died of hunger as a direct result of the conflict, but the actual figure is likely to be much higher.

Speaking about the security situation for aid agencies, Paul Westbury, East Africa Regional Security Advisor, GOAL, said:

“Humanitarian facilities have been attacked throughout the conflict, with at least 50 humanitarian warehouses and 91 offices (including several GOAL offices and storage facilities) ransacked. More than 200 vehicles which belong to humanitarian organizations have been stolen, with increasing reports of indiscriminate violence against aid workers. This all highlights the hazardous environment in which humanitarian organizations operate in Sudan. However, GOAL’s long-standing community engagement and localized peace deals by on-the-ground stakeholders have enabled us to continue to provide services, but as is our usual practice, we continually monitor these situations to ensure staff safety and security.”

Speaking about the intense challenges that our team of 250 Sudanese staff are experiencing while continuing to deliver humanitarian aid in North Darfur and South Kordofan, Jess Cope, Country Director, GOAL Sudan, said:

“Approximately two million children in Sudan suffer annually from some form of malnutrition. Now, more than two million Sudanese children have been displaced by conflict within the last five months, and it is estimated that 700 children are being displaced every hour. When we talk about displacement, it’s important to remember that displacement places a significant burden on families, especially where the care of children is concerned, and puts infants and young children at an extremely high risk of SAM (Severe Acute Malnutrition).”

“Since the conflict broke out, we have re-stocked 47 health clinics with medicine and nutrition supplies. We have also secured a new international procurement of medicines in Port Sudan, and we are working to transport these medicines onwards to GOAL-supported clinics in South Kordofan and North Darfur. We are in the process of providing cash assistance to over 1,500 households in North Darfur and South Kordofan. In North Darfur, the majority of our 17 health clinics remain open, and by the beginning of August, we had reached over 40,000 people with health and nutrition consultations,” continued Jess Cope.

As of late August, 250,000 people have crossed the border into South Sudan. 91% of these people are South Sudanese returnees, while 9% are refugees. 80% of those seeking refuge in South Sudan are crossing at the Wunthou (Jodah) border crossing. GOAL continues to implement targeted emergency nutrition activities for children under five years and pregnant and lactating women at the Jodah border point and Renk transit center.

Speaking about the GOAL operation in Renk, Phyllis Jepkorir, Country Director, GOAL South Sudan, said:

“Since the onset of the Sudan conflict, GOAL has screened over 10,000 children under five years and over 4,000 pregnant and lactating women for malnutrition. More than 2,600 of the screened children have been admitted for MAM (Moderate Acute Malnutrition), while more than 1,000 children have been admitted for SAM (Severe Acute Malnutrition). To alleviate hunger and further deterioration of the nutrition status for  children under five years and pregnant and lactating women, GOAL, with WFP support, works to provide all adults arriving through the Jodah (Wunthou) entry point with high-energy biscuits and UNICEF provides BP5 biscuits to children under five years; WHO supports the management of children with severe malnutrition with medical complications which may include nutritional oedema, malaria, diarrhoea, dehydration, respiratory infections at the stabilization center managed by GOAL, at the Renk Civil Hospital.”

“The nutrition intervention supports access to emergency nutrition supplies to alleviate hunger and prevent further nutrition situation deterioration, especially among children under the age of five years and pregnant and lactating women.”

“To complement the nutrition activities, GOAL, with support from bilateral donors including Irish Aid and Start Fund network, also delivered safe and clean water, construction of latrines, provision of hand washing soap and handwashing facilities as well as distribution of the much-needed non-food items including warm fleece blankets, collapsible jerricans, mosquito nets, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, family tents, dignity, and survival kits. The availability and access to these services have improved the quality of life for the affected population and provided hope,” continued Phyllis Jepkorir.