Comment & analysis

Conflict in Sudan: one year on

15 April 2024

To coincide with the anniversary of the outbreak of conflict in Sudan, the International Humanitarian Conference for Sudan and its Neighbours is taking place on Monday 15 April in Paris. This essential opportunity for members of the international community to take immediate action to prevent further suffering and death must be seized.

15 April marks one year since Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces started fighting in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. The effect on people’s lives has been tremendous: with much of the conflict taking place in residential areas, the use of airstrikes and heavy artillery is a major threat to life. The civilian death toll is high, and gender-based violence and sexual exploitation have been reported in all areas affected by the war, as have looting, forced displacement, arrests and disappearances.

Since then, large parts of the country have collapsed into widespread chaos as fighting has torn the country apart. The economy and basic services are barely functioning, and Sudanese civilians face the daily threat of violence and human rights abuses. The conflict is the worst displacement crisis in the world: more than 8.2 million have fled their homes since this time last year, with close to 25 million (half of the population) in immediate need of assistance. The international community must bring all political pressure to bear on the belligerents and their supporters to stop the war and push for a meaningful humanitarian ceasefire.

On the anniversary of the war, the humanitarian crisis has become a full-blown catastrophe, and is on the verge of becoming one of the worst hunger crises in the world. Nearly five million people are estimated to be on the brink of famine – which could lead to mass starvation and death – and a further 18 million are at risk of severe hunger. On its current trajectory, the situation is likely to be even worse in 2025 –  planting, harvests and markets have been disrupted and the price of food has skyrocketed. The international community must urgently disperse the flexible funding needed to curtail the impact of imminent famine and ensure that the response is immediately scaled up, including longer-term measures to prevent a worse situation next year.

Local responders 

The role of local responders – who have prevented an even worse situation – cannot be overstated. Sudanese people mobilised themselves extremely quickly to enable access to essential support, setting up hundreds of soup kitchens, keeping health facilities running, and helping the most vulnerable to leave conflict-affected areas. Individuals, youth groups, women-led organisations, student and professional associations, civil society initiatives and Emergency Response Rooms have become a lifeline for millions of Sudanese, with the support of the global Sudanese diaspora. Despite the ever-increasing risk of being targeted, Sudanese responders and mutual aid networks have provided often the sole source of support in the most hard-to-reach areas. The international community must ensure that any scaled-up response is designed around this Sudanese-led response, adapting and operationalising funding mechanisms and coordination and taking critical action to support and protect Sudanese responders.

Sudanese people have also mobilised themselves around peace, working determinedly to resist the descent into further fragmentation and violence. The past year has seen people conducting local mediation to slow the spread of violent conflict at the subnational level and shore up mutual support in the face of the immense pressure communities are under; individuals resisting calls to take up arms; people playing an indispensable role in maintaining access to isolated areas and facilitating mutual aid, and campaigning for peace while bravely documenting human rights atrocities and calling out those who are prolonging the war. As part of the urgent response to the catastrophic humanitarian situation, Sudanese voices for peace must continue to be supported through funding and recognition of the critical role they are playing, while political engagement must be inclusive and ensure that Sudan’s future is not decided by those responsible for the violence. Civil society must be supported in their efforts to coalesce around an alternative, peaceful, civilian-led future for the country.

Eid was celebrated globally in the week before the anniversary. Normally a period of joy, celebration and peace, this year it marks an extremely sombre time for Sudanese people around the world. Sudan has barely been visible on the international stage, with Sudanese voices calling for greater engagement and funding meeting little response. Policymakers face a choice: act now, or watch as Sudan slides further into starvation, fragmentation and violent collapse, with severe ramifications for the region. 

Read more about our work in Sudan.