As thousands of people continue to flee violence in Sudan and cross the border into Chad, Concern’s Amina Abdulla calls the crisis the worst she has ever seen in 20 years as a humanitarian.
More than 2.6 million people have been displaced within Sudan since violence broke out in mid-April, while 757,000 people have crossed borders into neighboring countries. In Chad, the estimated number of new refugees is currently at around 230,000 but this is increasing all the time, with thousands more on the Sudan side of the border looking to escape violence in the Darfur region, located in western Sudan.
“This is the worst crisis I’ve ever come across,” says Amina Abdulla, Concern’s Regional Director for the Horn of Africa, citing massive difficulties in getting humanitarian aid to those that need it the most. “Over the last 20 years of my career in the sector I haven’t seen this level of displacement happen over just eight weeks.”
Where is the international community in all of this?
Abdulla believes that, following an initial flurry of media coverage in the initial weeks of the conflict, the international community has turned its gaze away from events in Sudan and its bordering countries — to the detriment of those in need of vital supplies and medical intervention.
Generations to come will be profoundly affected by what has happened in recent months, and the bloodshed that continues to happen, she adds: “I think the international community has a very short attention span. This is mostly driven by media; the Sudan crisis lasted on major news outlets for about three weeks.”
What's left for those left behind
Abdulla points to the media coverage of the crisis in Sudan focusing mainly on other countries struggling to evacuate their citizens from the country. Since then, there has been “very minimal” coverage on the humanitarian impact of the crisis, and the needs of Sudanese civilians affected.
“I think that’s unfortunate because of just how this crisis has played out, the level of displacement we have seen, and the impact of it not just in the present, but into the future as well,” she says. “The level of unemployment — which was already there before the start of the violence — levels of poverty, high levels of malnutrition, the effects of climate change on the country… If we don’t get a handle on this crisis, opportunities for generations to come will be lost.”
“A crisis on top of a crisis” — and a possible third crisis
While conflict is at the root of the current displacement crisis in Sudan, another factor is about to come into play that will only exacerbate the difficulties in getting crucial aid to those that need it: the weather.
Sudan is heading into the rainy season, which an take a toll on the country even when infrastructure is otherwise running smoothly. Abdulla warns that the current situation leaves infrastructure in Sudan at “a bare minimum.”
“Roads are soon going to be impassable and we will have to deal with an additional level of displacement caused by flooding. A crisis on top of a crisis.”
Both conflict and climate are leading to increased tribal rivalries, a situation that threatens to spill over from the Darfur region into other parts of Sudan. “There is the conflict between the two principles but there is also a tribal element coming into it,” adds Abdulla. “It’s playing out in Darfur, and it’s going to be playing out in other regions as well if the two parties don’t come to some sort of agreement.“
Humanitarian response on the Chad-Sudan border
Following the escalation of violence this spring, Concern, which works in both Chad and Sudan, focused efforts on the Sila region of the border shared between the two countries. There, 47,280 refugees are currently living in transit camps and require healthcare, food, shelter kits, and other essential items and services. We have been assessing the situation in Addemour camp, on the border with Sudan, where refugees are arriving before relocating to new or existing camps in eastern Chad.
Our mobile health and nutrition clinic has been providing essential health services free of charge to both the refugee and host communities, treating moderate and severe cases of malnutrition and offering pre- and postnatal consultations, curative health services, and vaccination services to those who need them. We are also implementing a response in the Zabout camp, and hope to do likewise in the Djabal and Goz Amir camps.
More than 90% of people in the camps are women and children, and we have been distributing NFI (non-food items) kits in the Zaboud camp. We are also arranging for shelter materials to be delivered to the UNHCR and local partner ADES to support the construction of additional shelter.
Plenty of trauma and little hope
“People are arriving with very little, and with a lot of trauma,” says Reka Sztopa, Concern’s Regional Director for West Africa and Sahel. “Most of the people arriving are women and children, and some are crossing the border with gunshot wounds and other injuries.”
Currently, there are nearly 192,500 Sudanese refugees registered in Chad; estimates indicate that this may go as high as 250,000 by the end of the summer. Any hope of returning home is, for the moment, nonexistent.
“In the short term it would be very difficult for them to return due to the nature of the conflict,” adds Sztopa, who is hoping to see additional funding for Concern’s work in the region and an escalation in our response.
“This is unfortunately likely to be a protracted crisis, though of course we all wish for an end to hostilities and the conditions put in place for people to return.”
Sudan: How you can help
As Concern continues its efforts to provide aid in West Darfur and in south Sudan's West and South Kordofan regions, we urge all major donors worldwide to increase funding and support to support a humanitarian situation that is swiftly going from a crisis to a catastrophe. Widening the coverage of our response — as well as the responses of other humanitarian organizations in the region — is essential in order to prevent an already volatile situation from getting worse.
You can help us to make a difference by supporting our emergency appeal for Sudan. Your tax-deductible donation to this fund will go towards our response to this growing crisis.