5 min read

The Sudan crisis: how Medair is stepping in

April 12, 2024
by Medair
In the heart of Sudan's turmoil, Medair delivers hope and essentials to displaced families.

Sudan crisis: how Medair is stepping in

Twelve months into the armed conflict in Sudan, it has become the largest displacement crisis in the world. To date, 8.4 million people have been forced to flee their homes, and the number is growing every day. Families have sought refuge in neighbouring countries such as Chad, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

But even within the country, 6.5 million people who fled the war zones are now internally displaced. Many of them are forced to stay in emergency shelters in overcrowded IDP settlements or schools.

As a result, humanitarian needs have increased dramatically, and agencies face enormous challenges in accessing the affected population and providing services. In this dire situation, Medair is on the ground, continuing to serve the most vulnerable in hard-to-reach places.

Essential services in three states of Sudan during the crisis

Medair was providing humanitarian assistance in Blue Nile State in southern Sudan just before the recent conflict erupted. While international staff were evacuated from the company’s headquarters in Khartoum as fighting spread across the city and other parts of the country, our courageous local staff remained on the ground and have been the backbone of our programming over the past year. From the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, our evacuated colleagues provided remote support to the Sudanese team, and based on our team’s assessments in the field, obtained more funding to scale up activities and respond to the growing needs of the population. Despite the challenges, we were able to start new projects in Khartoum and the White Nile State, in addition to our work in Blue Nile. Today, Medair is working in three different states in Sudan, providing life-saving services to those who need them the most.

Khartoum: distributing essential household items (NFIs) for those remaining in the centre of the war zone

Since the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) began on 15th April 2023, Khartoum has never been the same. Once the proud capital of Sudan, it’s now one of the deadliest places in the world for civilians, and not just because of the active fighting in many parts of the city. Access to basic services has been cut off in most areas, health facilities have been destroyed, and those that could provide services are desperately running short on medicines and staff. Safe drinking water and food are scarce, and the fighting has made it too difficult to bring in sufficient supplies. Even what is available has become too expensive for most people to afford due to inflation. Those that could have fled Khartoum; and those who have stayed are in caught at the centre of brutal fighting, left with nothing, in hard-to-reach locations for anyone who wants to help. But Medair’s team, who are part of the affected population themselves, have found creative ways to reach even the most vulnerable people in Khartoum.

Humanitarian aid workers distribute household good to families affected by fighting in Khartoum.
Distribution of household goods in Khartoum in January 2024. ©Medair

Often at great risk, our staff have carried out distributions of essential, so-called “non-food items”, including blankets, buckets, water containers and plastic sheeting that help displaced families regain their dignity and hope. Being able to carry out daily activities such as cooking, cleaning and personal hygiene with appropriate materials helps restore a sense of normalcy to people who have been uprooted from their lives and communities and forced to flee with nothing but what they can carry. It also provides a measure of privacy for vulnerable individuals and families. This is particularly important for women, children and the elderly, who are at increased risk of harm in chaotic environments. NFIs can also help prevent the depletion of scarce financial resources of displaced families. Without such assistance, families may have to spend their money on these essential items instead of saving it for other critical needs, such as medical care. To date, our team in Khartoum has been able to distribute these NFI kits to more than 1,000 households in shelters.

White Nile State: emergency response to the cholera outbreak

Female humanitarian aid workers conduct a cholera awareness session with women of a community affected by a cholera outbreak in White Nile, Sudan.
Cholera awareness session in White Nile with local health promoters and women of a community affected by a cholera outbreak. ©Medair

White Nile has seen an increased influx of IDPs, particularly from the border areas of Khartoum. In displacement camps and informal settlements, temporary shelters lack adequate sanitation and access to clean water, creating conditions ripe for the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera. In these overcrowded camps, cholera can spread quickly due to the close contact and poor hygiene that families are exposed to. When a cholera outbreak was declared in White Nile State, Medair’s team immediately responded. Our staff distributed cholera hygiene kits containing soap and chlorine, as well as other hospital supplies, to health facilities in the area. We’re building the resilience of affected communities and reducing the risk of disease transmission by conducting awareness sessions and training local health promoters.

Two male humanitarian aid workers pick water canisters out of a truck in White Nile State, Sudan.
Distribution of water canisters and other household goods in White Nile in December 2023. ©Medair

As with our activities in Khartoum, Medair also distributed NFIs and hygiene kits to more than 2,000 households in White Nile. Khalid, our Senior Project Officer on the ground, was touched by the families’ positive feedback and gratitude:

“We’re so happy that we were able to deliver on our promises and actually help people. There were a lot of social workers and humanitarian actors listed before Medair arrived, but they never distributed anything. We distributed the NFIs within 2 weeks, and it was pure joy. We did what we said we would do. It was timely, in line with the expectations of a weary community that had been disappointed by empty promises. We were surprised to see people happily hugging us, recognising that we were Medair staff. It was one of our new staff member’s first week at Medair, and he was surprised to see people hugging him and thanking him for the NFI distributions. People will remember that we did something meaningful for them.”

Three male and two female humanitarian aid workers stand in front of information banners during a NFI distribution in White Nile State, Sudan.
Medair’s Senior Project Officer Khalid with his colleagues and partners from the UN migration agency IOM during a NFI distribution in White Nile in December 2023. ©Medair

Blue Nile State: Multisectoral services to communities affected by decades of disasters

Blue Nile has also seen a significant increase in humanitarian needs, despite not being one of the areas most affected by the fighting between the armed forces. But with a sad history of intercommunal violence, displacement, natural disasters, and disease outbreaks, the community is as vulnerable as those in war zones. As Medair’s oldest ongoing project, our team has worked hard and with dedication to adapt to the new challenges created by the recent fighting.

Abdulbaset, our Blue Nile Project Manager, explained:

“We’re working with populations that have been cut off from services and displaced internally and externally for the past twelve years. Now, Medair’s working hard to restore services, which requires working at all levels and categories of the health system.”

Our team operates health facilities in several locations, and our mobile clinics reach remote communities that lack access to even the most basic health and nutrition services. We work with partners to rehabilitate and build critical infrastructure such as solar systems, incinerators, hand-washing stations and water tanks at health facilities. Our trained staff deliver babies safely in our maternal clinics and treat severely acutely malnourished children under five with additional medical complications in our newly opened stabilisation centre.

At one of our clinics, during the rainy season, we met a four-year-old boy called Ibrahim, whose mother brought him to Medair’s facility because he was suffering from severe headaches and a high fever. Our clinical staff found that the boy had tested positive for malaria – which is relatively common in the rainy season, when vulnerable communities who cannot afford mosquito nets are at high risk of contracting malaria. Relieved that her son has been treated, his mother told us:

“Your facility is close to my home and easy to reach. I came here because my son is sick and needs treatment. I cannot afford the cost of medicines and transport to the nearest hospital. So, I came here today. I knew that Medair provides free health and nutrition services for children under five and pregnant women to support the community. This is the first time I have received services from Medair, and my son has received all his medicines from you. We got all the services we needed here today. I will encourage my family to come here for treatment.”
A mother with her son and a humanitarian aid worker in a health facility run by a NGO in Blue Nile State, Sudan.
Mother Dawala during treatment in one of Medair’s health facilities in Blue Nile. Her four-year-old son Ibrahim is suffering from Malarian and gets free medication. ©Medair

Sudan, a neglected crisis

The people of Sudan are facing the largest displacement crisis in the world, and UN experts expect Sudan to become the world’s worst hunger crisis by 2024. The humanitarian community is struggling to raise awareness of the dire situation, and many actors on the ground feel that the world has moved on as they desperately try to help in war-torn places where hope is scarce. With very limited resources, agencies like Medair are doing their best to make a significant impact while facing restricted access by authorities, security threats, and immense logistical challenges. But without sufficient financial support, it becomes increasingly difficult to respond to the needs of the population. Funding cuts are forcing humanitarians to make tough choices about who to prioritise for services in a situation that is worsening by the day, with almost half of its population of 48 million in need of aid. Due to a lack of international funding, more than 10 million vulnerable Sudanese people will not be able to access humanitarian services in 2024. And even this inadequate response plan is only 5% funded today.

While Medair remains committed to Sudan, we need your support to reach more people and restore hope to those who have lost everything and are still living in uncertainty as you read this. Your generosity will have a direct impact and save lives in this neglected crisis. Please stand with the people of Sudan who have been forgotten amid one of the world’s worst crises.

Medair’s services in Blue Nile are funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the European Union (ECHO). Medair’s services in Khartoum and White Nile are funded by Swiss Solidarity.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.

April 12, 2024
by Medair
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