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Sudan’s catastrophic conflict leaves millions suffering amid global inaction. Ethnic cleansing, starvation, and displacement intensify the dire humanitarian crisis.

Sudan’s Catastrophic Conflict: Global Inaction Fuels Humanitarian Disaster

By Darius Spearman (africanelements) | June 18, 2024

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Sudan’s Catastrophic Conflict: Global Inaction Fuels Humanitarian Disaster

Sudan’s ongoing civil war between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has spiraled into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Since fighting erupted in April 2023, over 14,000 people have been killed and more than 8 million displaced, making Sudan the site of the largest internal displacement crisis globally. (SOURCE: Council on Foreign Relations)

Millions Face Starvation Amid Ethnic Cleansing

Nearly 25 million people, over half of Sudan’s population, urgently need humanitarian aid. The country teeters on the brink of the “world’s largest hunger crisis,” with famine looming. (SOURCE: Council on Foreign Relations)

“Sudan could become the site of ‘the world’s largest hunger crisis’ without a cessation of hostilities.” – World Food Program (SOURCE: Council on Foreign Relations)

Reports indicate the RSF and allied militias are committing ethnic cleansing and mass killings, particularly targeting the Masalit people in Darfur. Women and girls face heightened risks of sexual violence, exploitation, and abduction. (SOURCE: UN Security Council)

Inadequate Global Response Leaves Civilians in Peril

Despite the gravity of the situation, international efforts to mediate the warring parties and deliver humanitarian aid have been woefully insufficient. Contradictory diplomatic initiatives and severe underfunding of aid operations have left civilians in dire peril. (SOURCE: Berghof Foundation, Center for Strategic and International Studies)

The UN Security Council remains deadlocked on taking decisive action. Experts warn that without robust intervention to stop the war, the consequences for civilians will be catastrophic. State failure in Sudan could destabilize the region and provide a haven for extremist groups. (SOURCE: Berghof Foundation, Center for Strategic and International Studies)

“At this critical juncture, the international community, regional organisations and neighboring states must play a more decisive role in ending the conflict, providing humanitarian relief and preventing the collapse of the country.” – Hani Ahmed, Berghof Foundation (SOURCE: Berghof Foundation)

The weak global response, likely due to competing geopolitical interests, has abandoned the Sudanese people to suffer mass atrocities and starvation. More robust intervention is urgently needed to end the conflict and avert further catastrophe. (SOURCE: International Rescue Committee)

Reasons Behind International Inaction in Sudan

Prioritizing Geopolitical Interests Over Human Lives

The international community, particularly key players like the U.S., have been focused on other conflicts such as those in Gaza and Ukraine, deprioritizing the situation in Sudan. Competing geopolitical interests have taken precedence over protecting Sudanese civilians. (SOURCE: Berghof Foundation)

Inadequate Diplomatic Efforts

While there have been some efforts by the African Union, IGAD, and the UN to facilitate consultations between the warring parties, these have been contradictory and insufficient to secure a lasting ceasefire or peace agreement. The African Union in particular has not shown the necessary leadership or taken concrete actions matching the scale of the crisis. (SOURCE: Berghof Foundation, Amnesty International)

Lack of Pressure on Warring Parties

The international community has not exerted enough pressure on the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to stop violating human rights and allow unhindered humanitarian access. Statements calling for a cessation of hostilities have not been backed by robust measures to monitor compliance or consequences for non-compliance. (SOURCE: Amnesty International, UN Security Council)

Underfunded Humanitarian Response

Despite the immense scale of displacement and humanitarian need, Sudan’s humanitarian response remains severely underfunded, limiting the delivery of critical aid. As of February 2024, the UN appeal was only 5% funded. (SOURCE: Amnesty International)

Weak Accountability Mechanisms

A culture of impunity has emboldened the perpetrators of atrocities, as those responsible for past crimes have not faced justice. While a UN Fact-Finding Mission was established in late 2023, it lacks the necessary staffing and resources to meaningfully fulfill its mandate of investigating human rights abuses. (SOURCE: ReliefWeb, Amnesty International)

Regional and Global Implications of Sudan’s Unaddressed Crisis

Destabilization of the Horn of Africa and Sahel Regions

State failure in Sudan risks creating a haven for extremist groups, which could further destabilize the already fragile Horn of Africa and Sahel. Sudan’s strategic location on the Red Sea trade route means instability there threatens maritime security, similar to the Houthi threat in Yemen. (SOURCE: Berghof Foundation)

Massive Displacement and Refugee Flows

With over 12 million people already displaced internally and to neighboring countries like Chad, South Sudan, and Ethiopia, a protracted war in Sudan could drive hundreds of thousands more to flee in search of safety and aid. This would strain the limited resources of Sudan’s neighbors and could lead to a regional refugee crisis impacting countries further afield, including in Europe. (SOURCE: Lowy Institute, USA for UNHCR, Berghof Foundation)

Exacerbated Food Insecurity Across East Africa

Sudan’s conflict has disrupted agriculture, markets, and aid delivery, leaving 18 million people severely food insecure. Famine is a looming threat. A hunger crisis of this scale would reverberate across the region, worsening food insecurity in the Horn of Africa which is already struggling with drought and instability. (SOURCE: Lowy Institute, World Vision, International Rescue Committee)

Fueling Transnational Organized Crime

Sudan’s conflict incentivizes armed groups to exploit the country’s gold reserves to finance their operations. An increase in smuggled conflict gold risks further commingling with legal gold markets and financing violence in Sudan and beyond, such as the war in Ukraine. (SOURCE: Lowy Institute)

Diverting Critical Humanitarian Aid

The immense scale of humanitarian need generated by Sudan’s crisis, on top of other global emergencies like Ukraine, risks further stretching already limited international aid budgets and attention. A shortfall in funding would deepen the suffering of millions of Sudanese civilians. (SOURCE: Lowy Institute, USA for UNHCR, World Vision)

About the author

Darius Spearman has been a professor of Black Studies at San Diego City College since 2007. He has authored several books, including Between The Color Lines: A History of African Americans on the California Frontier Through 1890. You can visit Darius online at