Conflict has been part of Sudan’s recent history. Last year’s war escalated an already-dire humanitarian situation.

On April 15, 2023, violent clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum sparked a nationwide conflict that has quickly become one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises

One year later, nearly half of the country’s population require some form of humanitarian assistance and the situation shows no signs of improving. In fact, on March 20, 2024, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that the country will soon be the site of the world’s worst hunger crisis. 

Meanwhile, over 8 million Sudanese have been forced to leave their homes, often with little more than the clothes on their backs. What has happened in the last 12 months? What’s going to happen from here? Read on to learn more.

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1. Violence in Sudan has been a fact of life for over 20 years, even if it’s not always covered in international headlines

Medical supplies during their transportation from Chad to West Darfur in Sudan. (Photo: UNICEF/Concern Worldwide)
Medical supplies during their transportation from Chad to West Darfur in Sudan. (Photo: UNICEF/Concern Worldwide)

Over the last 20 years, Sudan has made international headlines for ongoing conflict and political unrest. Protracted violence in Darfur beginning in 2003 led to then-Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir being indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide (among other charges). President Al-Bashir stepped down from his office in 2019, following months of civilian protests. This marked the first change in the country’s leadership in over 25 years, prompting hope for millions. However, the transitional government’s progress slowed, leaving room for uncertainty, violence, and, eventually, a successful military coup in October 2021. 

Since then, the country has been ruled by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the SAF, and his deputy Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo (head of the RSF). Tensions between the two forces escalated over time, erupting into open conflict on April 15, 2023 and sparking a national humanitarian catastrophe. (Similar circumstances have fueled the crisis in neighboring South Sudan for more than a decade.) 

2. Nearly 25 million people in Sudan require humanitarian aid

Ahmed (far right) helps deliver essential Unicef medical supplies from N'Djmena, Chad to 10 medical centers supported by Concern in conflict-affected villages in West Darfur. (Photo: Concern Worldwide)
Ahmed (far right) helps deliver essential Unicef medical supplies from N'Djmena, Chad to 10 medical centers supported by Concern in conflict-affected villages in West Darfur. (Photo: Concern Worldwide)

While all of this came to a head last April, two decades of conflict had already left many Sudanese in vulnerable circumstances: According to UNOCHA, an estimated 300,000 people were displaced by conflict in 2022 — with nearly 33,000 displaced in November alone due to fighting in West Kordofan and Central Darfur. By the start of 2023, one out of every three people in Sudan (approximately 15.8 million) required humanitarian aid, a 10% increase compared to the previous year. 

Then came April 15. 

During the mass evacuation in the initial weeks of fighting, Peter Van der Auweraert (South Sudan’s representative for the UN’s International Organization for Migration) told the New York Times: “The people that get out first are the people that have the means,” indicating that thousands more will likely be stuck in the country with increasing needs. Unfortunately, this prediction bore out. One year into Sudan’s crisis, that need has shot up dramatically, with 24.8 million people requiring some form of humanitarian aid.

3. Over 8 million Sudanese have been forced to leave their homes


At the end of 2022, approximately 844,000 of the world’s refugees came from Sudan. Within the country itself, there were also approximately 3.5 million internally-displaced persons (IDPs). Over the course of 2023, those numbers increased drastically: According to UN data from March 12-20, 2024, over 8.4 million people have been forced to leave home. This includes 1.7 million refugees — a 101% increase compared to the previous year. Additionally, Sudan now hosts over 6.46 million IDPs (an 85% increase), mainly in the Darfur and Kordofan regions. Over half of all Sudanese refugees and IDPs are children, making this the world’s largest child displacement crisis. 

Displacement creates a large portion of the humanitarian need in these situations. Millions of Sudanese escaped violence without much more than the clothes on their backs, and arrived in host communities with little cash and limited resources available to them. In 22 of Sudan’s 189 localities, the UN reports that 100% of residents require humanitarian assistance.

4. Sudan may become the world’s largest hunger crisis in 2024

As of this writing, over 40% of Sudan’s population (18 million people) are experiencing high levels of food insecurity, with needs only worsening over time. In his March 20 speech to the UN Security Council, ​​OCHA’s Edem Wosornu described the circumstances as “a far-reaching and fast-deteriorating situation of food insecurity in Sudan.” 

A large part of this is driven by hunger. However, Sudan is also one of the countries most affected by climate change, with some of the most direct effects of the climate crisis impacting food security and agriculture. This has dire implications for the 80% of working Sudanese, who make their livelihoods in agriculture and pastoralism. Droughts and erratic rainfall have made it difficult for many to cope in recent years. Food processing factories have largely ceased operations due to the war, and the only factory in the country that produced lifesaving therapeutic food for children (RUTF) was destroyed.

Sudan’s lean season between harvests begins in May, which will only increase food insecurity. Some areas of Darfur could even face famine or famine-like conditions. As Wosornu told the UN Security Council, “Sudan is on course to become the world's worst hunger crisis.”

5. As of March, the humanitarian response plan for Sudan is only 5% funded

A Concern aid convoy of food and non-food essentials reaches its destination.

The needs in Sudan have risen dramatically over the last year: The country is facing major outbreaks of cholera, dengue fever, measles, and malaria, yet fewer than 30% of healthcare facilities in affected areas are functioning. Incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) have also risen since the onset of this conflict. Access to clean water, already limited in many parts of the country, has further dropped. Conflict has led to rising inflation rates (currently at 200%) and the prices for available essentials like food and clean water. 

Humanitarian access to some of the most vulnerable areas has also been inconsistent due to fighting. Despite this, over the first six months of the conflict, the humanitarian community (including Concern) was able to reach more than 5.2 million people. This is significant, but it’s also only a fraction of the 24.8 million people requiring assistance. Unfortunately, NGOs are facing significant challenges to reaching more people: Last year’s appeal for Sudan, launched in the wake of April 15, was only 48% funded. Of the $2.7 billion needed to meet only the most dire needs in 2024, funding as of last month was just at 5%. 

In the year ahead, we can expect that the conflict will continue, with additional displacement and a further deteriorating economic situation. Humanitarian needs will increase, along with the demand for intervention, but that funding will be unlikely to increase to meet these rising levels. Sadly, it will be Sudanese civilians left to pay an unthinkable price.

The crisis in Sudan: Concern’s response

Concern has been in Sudan for nearly 40 years (including in West Darfur and South Kordofan), in that time reaching hundreds of thousands of people — all of whom are more than both the past and present conflicts affecting them. 

While Concern’s team in Sudan have also faced challenges of safety and logistics, many of our team members have stayed on, responding to the needs of their compatriots. We have been able to respond to an ever-changing situation and ensure that help is going where it’s needed most. 

While the safety and security of our staff remains the utmost importance, our priority is to also live up to our humanitarian commitment in the communities we work with, while responding to new immediate needs within the country. This includes: 

  • Supporting 80 healthcare facilities
  • Providing emergency cash transfers
  • Mainstreaming protection services for children

Between April 2023 and January 2024, we’ve reached over 346,000 people with life-saving support, including: 

  • 15 tonnes of cholera response kits and related supplies
  • 10 tonnes of medical supplies and medicine, including RUTF
  • 2,500 food kits
  • Cash support for 300 vulnerable families

We are also responding to the influx of Sudanese refugees in neighboring Chad (where we’ve worked for 17 years). 

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