The answer to “what’s happening in Sudan?” is relatively straightforward: after a year of escalating and brutal civil war, people in Sudan are facing famine, disease outbreaks, and virtually no health care infrastructure. But behind that answer are many complex contributing factors. From a long history of thwarted attempts at peace to a faltering health care system prior to the recent conflict, there are compounding challenges people are facing in Sudan — and the result is that millions of people are suffering.

Still, even after a year of war, there’s reason to hope for Sudan. And it’s our belief that continuing to deliver loving, life-saving health care to people living through this terrifying conflict is more important than ever.

What’s happening in Sudan right now

The reality on the ground in Sudan is stark. As fighting continues to escalate between the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese army, more people than ever have been displaced by the conflict. Since April 2023, more than 8 million people have been forced to leave home by violence. Of those, nearly 7 million are still within Sudan. The ongoing war has created a dangerous and volatile humanitarian situation, and many organizations are no longer able to operate in Sudan.

The fighting, which erupted suddenly in Khartoum last year, took many by surprise. But the conflict hasn’t waned. Of particular concern to Medical Teams is the impact on the health care system. There have been more than 280 incidents since April of 2023 targeting health care facilities. As a result, nearly 70% of all health care facilities in conflict-affected areas have been impacted. Many are entirely non-functional, and of those that do still have some capacity, they often have few resources and are overwhelmed by patients.

Yasir Elamin, President of the Sudanese American Physicians Association, said of the conflict,

“The health facilities are inundated with victims of violence and disease, facing a catastrophic shortage of medical supplies and personnel. It is not just a call for aid; it is a plea for humanity.”

It’s important to note that prior to the April 2023 conflict, many people were already seeking refuge in Sudan from other countries. After the resolution of the conflict in Darfur, Sudan was relatively stable compared to its neighbors. Thousands of people fleeing conflict in Ethiopia and South Sudan sought safety in Sudan. Because of overcrowding in refugee camps, diseases like cholera and measles are threatening people’s lives.

Famine conditions

Another alarming aspect of the war in Sudan is the threat of famine. The United Nations reports that Sudan is on course to become the world’s worst hunger crisis. The ongoing hostility has damaged critical infrastructure. Farmers have been forced to abandon their farmlands, especially in Al Jazirah state, where an occupation by militants has taken place. The prices of basic food items have been driven up by 83%. The result is that there are now 18 million people in Sudan who are facing acute food insecurity, which is near famine.

As we near the one-year mark of war, it’s estimated that 222,000 children could die of malnutrition. Top UN officials warn that an entire generation could be lost because of the famine caused by this conflict. Both the 2023 and 2024 harvests of cereal grain have been very poor, both from environmental factors and because of the violence. Without unhindered access for humanitarian agencies and deep investment from the international community, the situation remains dire.

Medical Teams’ presence in Sudan

A mother and daughter are checked for malnutrition in Sudan by our mobile medical team. Photo by Medical Teams International.

In early 2021, Medical Teams conducted initial assessments in Sudan in response to the rapidly unfolding crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Thousands of people were fleeing violence there and needed health care. In May, in partnership with ZOA, we began providing primary health care services in a refugee camp in Gederef state.

For the next year, we continued to provide health care services in Gedaref. We also provided emergency services when flooding in Al Fao forced people from their homes. Additionally, in 2022, our mobile medical teams responded to drought-affected communities with emergency nutrition services at 45 sites.

In 2023, we expanded into 3 new refugee camps in Gedaref state and 10 refugee camps in the White Nile state, with support from UNHCR. Our focus remained on providing primary health care, nutrition, and mental health and psychosocial support services to people in need of care.

Responding to the call

When violence erupted in April 2023, it was a stressful and scary situation for our teams in Sudan, especially in the capital city Khartoum. Our staff sheltered in place in Khartoum until it was safe to relocate our operations into a more stable region. We continued to deliver services in Gedaref state while we relocated our Khartoum team closer to our clinic operations.

In July, we expanded our programs into both Gedaref and White Nile with support from multiple UN agencies and generous support from Medical Teams’ private donors. Now, Medical Teams in Sudan supports 95 health centers providing access to people displaced by violence in other countries, local Sudanese, and internally displaced Sudanese people in Gedaref and White Nile. 

Our team rapidly expanded in the past year, with 480 staff members and 520 volunteers working tirelessly to respond to and prevent disease outbreaks, provide primary health care, and provide life-saving treatment for malnourished children and mothers — particularly for children. Our staff and volunteers are working to improve health care quality and access for all displaced persons fleeing the war in Sudan and conflict in other surrounding countries.

Birhanu Waka, Medical Teams Sudan Country Director, says,

“People are facing incredibly difficult and heartbreaking choices as they try to feed their families. We are operating under stressful conditions, but we are dedicated to the people of Sudan.”

The need is immense, and we felt the call strongly to help people who have been affected by violence. Still, the ongoing conflict and restricted access for humanitarian aid has made what’s happening in Sudan deeply challenging for organizations like ours.

How we’re healing

Even given the challenging context, we’re dedicated to providing people in Sudan with loving, life-saving care. One of our main focuses is providing emergency access to essential health care, nutrition, and mental health support to people through facilities in refugee camps and through our mobile medical teams. In many places, we offer comprehensive primary health care services and medical screenings for communicable diseases.

We’re also focused on establishing a strong network of community health workers, in part because of incredible team members like Salma Salah. Our community health workers help educate their neighbors on healthy behaviors and disease prevention tactics. They can distribute supplements, help manage complicated cases, and offer counseling and other support.

In Gedaref and White Nile state, we’re leading the health and nutrition responses in multiple refugee camps. We’re addressing the inadequate access to health care and disruptions to maternal and primary health care services. We’re also working to treat people experiencing malnutrition. Sadly, levels are catastrophically high.

You can help what’s happening in Sudan

Through no fault of their own, families in Sudan are suffering. After a year of war between two military forces, they’re bearing the weight of this conflict. Too often, people are paying with their lives. As famine looms, it’s more important than ever for our compassionate community to join together on behalf of the Sudanese.

You can help our brothers and sisters suffering in Sudan with the gift of health care today. Give now >>