The situation in Sudan escalated on April 15, 2023, when clashes erupted in Khartoum between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The war erupted after long-standing tensions between General Abdelfattah al-Burhan, the leader of SAF, and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (“Hemedti”), who heads the RSF. Tensions have been simmering for months because of disagreements over integrating the RSF and the SAF. Burhan and Hemedti had previously collaborated on a military coup against Sudan’s transitional government in October 2021.

By Staff Reporter

The conflict between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has caused immense suffering and devastation for the civilian population. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented cases where heavy explosive weapons were used in heavily populated areas, leading to the loss of many innocent lives and the destruction of vital infrastructure.

Figures released by the United Nations last September paint a grim picture of the situation, with a staggering death toll of 9,000 since the commencement of the conflict. However, HRW believes these figures are considerably lower than the actual death toll.

Furthermore, the report highlighted that 5.4 million people had been forcibly displaced, with 4.1 million internally displaced and over 1 million seeking refuge in neighbouring nations.

The extreme brutality of Sudan’s war, according to the latest report by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), has displaced 9 million people within their own country, making it the largest war-related displacement crisis in the world, surpassing even Ukraine and Syria.

Many people inside Sudan have fled violence more than once. Another 1.7 million people have escaped Sudan to neighbouring countries. In total, 10.7 million people have had to flee Sudan’s brutal conflict, but almost no one has found safety.

According to NCR, approximately 700,000 people have now fled from extreme violence in Sudan to eastern Chad. One in three people in this deeply afflicted area is a refugee. Survivors have escaped atrocities but now face extreme neglect and a daily struggle for survival.

Chad has become the primary destination for a significant number of individuals escaping ethnically motivated violence in the Western Darfur region of Sudan. The NCR says this influx of refugees has significantly strained Chad, a country already facing economic challenges.

The refugees in Chad are currently experiencing severe shortages in essential resources needed for their survival. Urgent and enhanced support for Chad, as well as addressing the broader crisis in Sudan, is imperative. Furthermore, global leaders are called upon to demonstrate political resolve to bring an end to the ongoing senseless violence in the region.

“Here in Chad, I have heard horrifying testimonies of deliberate violence and atrocities. Families fleeing neighbouring Darfur have witnessed executions, rape, indiscriminate shelling, burning of camps, and massacres – just because of their ethnicity,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, visiting camps and Adré informal settlement in eastern Chad earlier this week.

“And yet many survivors have been utterly abandoned. They are forced to live in desperate, undignified conditions, under make-shift tents, lacking even basic assistance. How is it that these survivors have been so forgotten?”

Ten months into the crisis, the infrastructure in Chad is overwhelmed as a constant stream of refugees continues to enter the country. New arrivals have no choice but to improvise shelters in informal camps and hope for better housing later. Thousands of refugees lack sufficient food and safe drinking water, with people lacking even plastic containers to carry whatever water is available. Aid agencies have warned that the lack of support has set the stage for humanitarian catastrophe. 

Despite a long history of people escaping violence in Darfur by crossing into Chad, both the scale and rate of the current displacement are unprecedented. More people have fled to Chad from Sudan in the last ten months than during the entire Darfur war in 2003. In Adré, the city closest to the Darfur border, 150,000 refugees live in a self-constructed informal settlement. Refugees now outnumber locals by more than two to one in Adré.

“I was here 20 years ago, during another period of appalling violence across Darfur, when Bush, Blair and other world leaders and celebrities were speaking out. Today we have three times the number of refugees who fled to Chad in 2003 and 2004. But this time international outrage and solidarity are missing. None of the peace initiatives or relief plans have had any real impact on the suffering inside Sudan or in neighbouring refugee camps. The needs here in Chad are off the scale, but this time the world’s attention has wandered elsewhere. It can’t go on like this,” said Egeland.

“The sheer number of refugees here in Chad, and their harrowing testimonies, tell a story of almost unimaginable human suffering and violence. And yet those we listen to and support in Chad represent the mere tip of the iceberg. The war in Sudan is raging, and the crisis is now the world’s largest displacement crisis, with over 10 million people forced to flee inside and outside Sudan. The war is shattering an entire region in the heart of Africa. There must be a more effective diplomatic and humanitarian international response.”

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