21 July 2023 - Sudan

STAFF ACCOUNT: “The violence is everywhere, there is looting everywhere.”

Press Release

By Sara Abdelrazil, 40, Save the Children in North Kordofan, Sudan

Sara Abdelrazil, 40, works for Save the Children in North Kordofan, Sudan

Context: Three months after the escalation of conflict in Sudan, over 3.1 million people have been displaced, including more than 1.5 million children. At least 3,000 people have been killed, including at least 330 children and a further 6,000 people have been injured, including at least 1,900 children. The eruption of fighting comes as Sudan was already facing its worst ever humanitarian crisis with existing conflict, natural disasters, disease outbreaks and economic degradation already leaving 15.8 million people in need.

El Obeid, SUDAN, 21 June 2023 - In Sudan it's hard to escape the violence. In my town of El Obeid, there is looting everywhere. You can't drive for fear of being stopped and having your car stolen and being beaten or even killed. You fear constantly for your children with reports of armed men raiding homes at night and kidnapping girls. You can't go shopping in safety with few women and children on the streets.

Over the past three months we have had our lives ripped apart. On the day the conflict started, I was enjoying a typical Saturday, shopping with my teenage daughter at the market for items to celebrate the end of Ramadan. We were so stunned to hear shooting and shelling, and within minutes armed men were everywhere, ordering shop owners to stop working.

My daughter was terrified - scared of being killed or separated from me. When we saw a car coming to collect people, we jumped in but after minutes the car was stopped by a group of men pointing their guns at us. My daughter was sick from fear. We fled on foot, walking for more than four hours to get home.

The situation has since been very difficult in El Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan in Sudan, where I live. There is no water unless you buy it from the shop. In May, the electricity did not work for three weeks. Food prices have spiked. Salaries for government staff have not been paid for three months. Markets are partially open, but there is no food on the shelves. Banks are still closed.

I've lived here for a long time, and I've never seen things this bad. Even those who have money cannot get food. In the past, if you had money you could get what you want from the shops. Now, everyone is the same.

The security situation in El Obeid town has improved slightly in recent weeks, but we still have daily shootings. We are also receiving a lot of displaced people from the surrounding villages, who have fled terror, killing and violence. Armed men have been attacking families in their villages every night continuously for weeks. The people who have fled their homes haven't been able to take anything with them, walking for six days to reach El Obeid. Most of these people have now settled in schools in the southern part of the city.

Just yesterday I was in the displacement camp, speaking with women about what had made them decide to leave home. They told me they were afraid of being killed or being assaulted, or that their daughters would be attacked. One of the women told me that, at 36 weeks pregnant, she walked for a day-and-a-half to try to get to safety. The armed men had come to her home demanding all their valuables, and said if they didn't give them, they would be killed or beaten. She told me they were so scared, the first night they hid in a cemetery, one of the only places they felt safe.

Most of the displaced people are women and children. There are so many children, and they seem afraid of everything. If you speak in a loud voice, they get scared and hide behind their mothers. Mothers tell me their children aren't sleeping well, they are fighting, they are scared, they have all this negative energy and don't know how to express it.

I imagine what it would be like if my children were in this situation. It really hurts. You see the children walking without shoes, with dirty clothes, without enough food, they don't have anything. They have nothing.

One of my colleagues told me this morning that where she lives, every night men are kidnapping girls. She said if you report it, even if you yell or open your mouth to stop the violence, you will be killed. I can't imagine someone taking my girls. I can't imagine others watching my girls get taken and doing nothing to stop it. Now, at the market, you don't see any girls, only mothers and fathers shopping for the family. Girls are scared and parents are scared for them.

You can deal with the hunger, you can live with a little bit of water, but you cannot live with the violence. Those that are getting violated are very young girls and vulnerable women.

I want to raise my voice on behalf of the children. We have to stop what is happening to the people in Sudan, not just in this city or this state, but everywhere in the country.

Despite the situation, I am so proud that Save the Children has managed to launch the emergency response in North Kordofan, running six mobile health clinics providing primary health care services for the families who have been displaced. I find it satisfying to help people in their time of great need.

For further enquiries please contact:

Daphnee Cook Daphnee.cook@savethechildren.org / +254 717 524 904 (in Nairobi)
Katharina Schroeder Katharina.Schroeder@savethechildren.org
Our media out of hours (BST) contact is media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44(0)7831 650409

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