Sudan: Largest Crisis of Child Displacement in the World, with Responses Falling Short
The humanitarian disaster in Sudan has been escalating since the outbreak of conflict on April 15th, 2023. Similar to children in any crisis or war worldwide, Sudanese children bear the brunt of violence, with 14 million children in urgent need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, per a report by UNICEF in early November, 2023. As the number of child victims surpasses 1,200 within camps, as reported by UNICEF in September, Sudan is facing the world’s largest crisis of child displacement, with an estimated half of the 6.3 million displaced being children, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) by the end of November.
Prior to the current conflict, there were already over 1.7 million internally-displaced persons in Sudan. From April to November, reports of severe child rights violations have exceeded 3,130, with at least half occurring in the Darfur region. These transgressions signal war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and conflict-related sexual violence. On the health front, diseases such as cholera, measles, dengue fever, and malaria continue to spread across the country. Approximately 70% of hospitals in conflict-affected states, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), are out of service, and the remaining facilities are overcrowded, with many internally-displaced seeking care.
UNICEF reports that around 7.4 million children lack access to safe drinking water, with half of them under the age of five. Many also lack routine vaccinations, leaving 700,000 severely malnourished children at risk of death without treatment. Just two months ago, UNICEF warned that internally displaced children are primarily suffering from hunger, exacerbated by the shutdown of 98% of nutrition centers in Khartoum and 90% in Darfur. Additionally, the World Health Program has cautioned against a famine crisis affecting one-third of Sudan’s population, including children.
The climate crisis has further worsened the situation, with torrential rains and floods disrupting agriculture since August. This has impacted harvests significantly, with damage to thousands of hectares of land. Ongoing attacks on facilities and health services pose a threat to the lives of infants and their mothers. With over 333,000 expected births between October and December 2023, access to medical care during childbirth is diminishing due to a severe shortage of medical supplies.
The conflict has deprived 19 million children of attending school, making it one of the worst educational crises globally, according to UNICEF. At least half of these children have not had the opportunity to enter classrooms. Amid these multidimensional crises affecting children, UNICEF emphasizes that only 24% of the humanitarian appeal launched for this year has been funded, leaving the country engulfed in a worsening crisis compounded by years of accumulated challenges.
For more information on the war in Sudan, please refer to our comprehensive article on the war here.