Young doctor displaced by Sudan's conflict helps others forced to flee
She had been working at a hospital in the capital and planning to begin further studies in medicine at Sudan International University when the violence began unfolding on her doorstep.
Her new reality became shelling, airstrikes, and gunfights. Like many of the city’s 5 million inhabitants, she and her brother were trapped in their home, relying on dwindling supplies of water and soft drink and some food given to them by neighbours. Her younger brother, Ibrahim, went out to try to find water during a brief lull in the fighting, but was shot in the leg.
Neighbours rushed him home and Razan convinced a truck driver to transport them to a nearby hospital. Inside, a scene of chaos greeted them – wounded individuals sprawled across corridors, and medical staff trying to tend to a relentless stream of patients. The bullet was removed from Ibrahim's leg, but before surgery could begin, armed men stormed the hospital, forcing everyone to flee.
While most of their neighbours had left, Razan's dedication to her injured brother kept her rooted, unable to flee until he was strong enough to move. Finally, after nine days, they left Khartoum with a single suitcase, boarding a southbound bus to the city of Wad Madani for three days where Ibrahim was successfully operated on.
They then took another 2,000-kilometre bus trip to the northern city of Wadi Halfa. From there, they hoped to cross into Egypt and reunite with their parents who had been living in Saudi Arabia for some time before the conflict started.
Their plans were shattered when they discovered the visa requirements and the long queues at the Egyptian consulate. Meanwhile, all the city’s schools and mosques were already fully occupied by about 8,000 displaced people. The two siblings joined the hundreds of people sheltering in the city park, where they have spent the last three months.
Razan and her brother are among an estimated 3.8 million people who have been displaced inside Sudan since the conflict began. They are scattered across the country, in new gathering sites for the internally displaced, in locations close to existing refugee camps, and in border areas, with little food and water.
Life in Wadi Halfa is worlds apart from Razan’s life in Khartoum where she spent her weekends in cafes by the Nile and taking horse-riding lessons. Now she sleeps beneath a tarp, sometimes awakened by sandstorms. Dawn brings a 10-minute walk to the nearest latrine.
"Collaborating with UNHCR has given me a purpose."
Despite her harsh new existence, Razan decided to volunteer to assist other displaced people. She uses her medical skills to help those living alongside her in the park, many of whom suffer from dehydration and malaria. She also joined other volunteers working with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to identify and register newly arrived people and to ensure they receive relief items such as blankets, plastic sheets, jerrycans, and solar lamps.
“Her experience as a doctor and her journey as a displaced person make her uniquely qualified to help, and work with the community to identify and respond to their needs," said Daniel Kahura, UNHCR's Protection Officer in Wadi Halfa.
“Collaborating with UNHCR has given me a purpose; I am no longer [only] a recipient of aid. It has also kept me busy while I was spending days just waiting for a miracle and thinking about my life,” explains the young doctor.
Her gaze is now fixed on the future. She still hopes to travel to Egypt and then Saudi Arabia to reunite with her family. There she hopes to rekindle dreams of furthering her medical studies put on hold by the conflict.