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Displacement crisis in Sudan deepens as fighting spreads

Briefing notes

Displacement crisis in Sudan deepens as fighting spreads

19 December 2023
Refugees from Sudan wait at the Joda border point in South Sudan's Upper Nile State for transportation to the transit centre in Renk.

Refugees from Sudan wait at the Joda border point in South Sudan's Upper Nile State for transportation to the transit centre in Renk. 

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is concerned at the deepening forced displacement crisis in Sudan and neighbouring countries as hundreds of thousands more people flee from the latest fighting in Sudan’s central Al Jazirah State, southeast of the capital, Khartoum.

We are also very concerned about reports of an escalation in the conflict in the Darfur Region. On 16 December, renewed fighting in El Fasher, in North Darfur, resulted in civilian casualties, injuries, and further displacement, followed by looting of homes and shops, and arrests of youth. In Nyala, in South Darfur, an aerial attack was reported, causing death, injuries and destruction of civilian homes.

Heavy fighting, including airstrikes and shootings, was reported on the outskirts of Wad Madani, the capital of the Al Jazirah State, on Friday, 15 December. The fighting has now reached the town. After conflict first broke out in Sudan’s capital in April this year, over half a million people, including some 7,000 refugees, fled to Wad Madani from Khartoum. 

With this latest bout of fighting, panic has reportedly spread among the civilian population in Wad Madani and people were seen leaving the town in vehicles and on foot, some for the second time in only a few months. According to IOM, between 250,000 and 300,000 people have fled Wad Madani and surrounding areas since the clashes began.  

UNHCR is working to deliver and distribute urgently needed core relief items to the people newly displaced from Al Jazirah to Sennar and Gedaref States. Despite efforts by national and international humanitarian organizations and local actors to provide assistance, the overall humanitarian situation remains dire.

Since the war broke out in April, more than 7 million people have fled their homes in Sudan, many of them moving repeatedly to find temporary safety. This repeated displacement shows how devastating this conflict has been for the civilian population.

We are very worried that if the fighting further escalates and spreads to White Nile State, it could significantly impact the work of UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations that provide critical assistance to over 437,000 South Sudanese refugees and some 433,000 internally displaced Sudanese there. Since the onset of the conflict in April, UNHCR has provided emergency shelter to approximately 42,000 families and core relief items to nearly 12,000 vulnerable families in White Nile State and, in collaboration with UN and NGO partners, has taken measures to mitigate the high risk of a cholera outbreak in displacement sites. However, a spread of the fighting or any new influx could disrupt health and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) services, resulting in severe consequences.

There are also reports of people on the move towards South Sudan, where the border town of Renk is severely overcrowded and lacking enough aid to meet the needs of the people who have already arrived. Heavy rains have made the roads impassable, hampering the relocation of refugees. UNHCR and partners are doing what they can to prepare, but resources were already severely overstretched.

We continue to strongly appeal to all parties to end the conflict, to respect the safety of civilians in accordance with international law, and to allow humanitarian access so that critical lifesaving aid and services can reach those in need.

As the scale of the crisis and the potential for it to destabilize the entire region continues to grow, the world must not forget the ongoing situation in Sudan.

We appreciate the funding received already from many donors, but it is just not enough to meet the needs of the families that are facing unimaginable hardship.

The 2023 Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan, which called for $1 billion to meet the needs of 1.8 million people in Chad, Central African Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan this year, is only 38 per cent funded.

For additional information:

In Sudan: 

In Nairobi:

In Geneva: