17 May 2023 - Sudan

Sudan: Armed groups occupying health facilities, looting, cutting off lifeline for country’s children as numbers in need surge

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KHARTOUM, 17 May 2023 – Armed groups occupying health facilities and looting supplies in Sudan are taking life-saving treatment from millions of children and their families, Save the Children said, with new data showing the number of people in need has jumped about 57%.


The child rights organisation urged parties to the conflict to stick to commitments from the Jeddah declaration to protect civilians signed last week[i],  in line with international humanitarian law.  This includes protecting civilian infrastructure, such as health facilities and schools, as well as humanitarian workers and assets.


In an incident earlier this week, eight people on oxygen in a health facility in Khartoum supported by Save the Children were driven out by armed groups using the centre as a base. The aid group said the patients managed to find safety in other hospitals. 


In a separate incident at the weekend in Geneina, West Darfur, three primary healthcare facilities for internally displaced people (IDPs), also supported by Save the Children, were looted and emptied of supplies.


New UN figures released today showed that the number of people in need in Sudan is now 24.7 million – a 57% increase from a projected figure of 15.8 million at the end of last year. This means more than half of the total population of 46 million now needs humanitarian assistance.


Needs have skyrocketed since the outbreak of violence just over a month ago that has killed at least 700 civilians including 190 children, injured over 5,200 and forced over a million people from their homes.


Healthcare across the country is on the verge of collapse, with new figures showing less than 20% of health facilities in Khartoum state remain functional and 60% are not operating at all. Doctors working with Save the Children said that patients are arriving after long journeys only to find that they do not even have basic paracetamol.


One Save the Children staff member, Ibrahim*, working in West Darfur, said: “The fighting erupted on Friday from 6am until 6pm, and continued the following two days. All roads are blocked now, there is no access and no basic services at all. Everything stopped.


“There is no transport for injured people, because all the local health systems are completely destroyed. All the hospitals and health facilities are either burned or looted. There is no health facility working in Geneina at all. People with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cannot get any treatment.”


Save the Children has launched an emergency response supporting displaced people in Gezira state, and plans to increase this over the next few weeks, but needs continue to spiral.


About 3 million children under the age of five are affected by malnutrition, with Sudan reporting the highest rate of malnutrition globally, according to today’s figures. Even before fighting broke out last month, Sudan had one of the worst child malnutrition rates in the world, with around 610,000 suffering from severe acute malnutrition, putting their lives at risk[ii].


The past month has made an already severe hunger crisis spiral even further out of control, with most shops shut and food supplies further out of reach, and violence destroying lifesaving supplies. Last week a factory producing malnutrition supplements used by Save the Children, UNICEF and the World Food Programme was burned down, destroying vital supplies for 14,500 children[iii].


Arif Noor, Country Director for Save the Children in Sudan, said: “Conflict hurts a child’s whole world, and these new figures show just how rapidly things have declined in Sudan in the space of just one month.


“Already, Sudan was home to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, including sky-high rates of malnutrition and hunger. When conflict breaks out and destroys what lifeline children have – health facilities, food supplies and stocks of malnutrition treatment – then truly, what chance do children have in life?


“While fighting is ongoing, parties to the conflict must respect international humanitarian law. Destruction of health facilities delivering lifesaving treatment must be stopped at once. Really, though, we need an immediate cessation of hostilities. We also need the international community to step up and to respond to the severe needs outlined in today’s UN Humanitarian Response Plan.”




Notes to editors:


Save the Children has worked in Sudan since 1983. In 2022, Save the Children directly reached 2.1 million people, with 1.5 million of them children, with programming focused on child protection, access to quality education, health and nutrition support and responding to emergencies.  In the current context, Save the Children is continuing to support children and their families across five states (Red Sea, Kordofan, Gedaref, Sennar, Blue Nile), providing health, nutrition, education, child protection and food security and livelihoods support. This includes ongoing support through 108 primary health care facilities and 176 schools across the country.

On Monday Save the Children began implementing its emergency response for internally displaced people in Gezira state, 50 miles south of Khartoum, planning to reach at least 4100 displaced people with child protection activities, emergency medical treatment (or mobile health clinic) and the distribution of essential hygiene items. 

Save the Children is also supporting refugees from Sudan in Egypt and South Sudan.

Save the Children is calling on the international community to commit the funding and resources to prepare for a large-scale response to meet critical needs both in Sudan and in neighbouring countries, including to local and national organisations providing frontline response.  


Donate to our Child Emergency Fund to help us to respond quickly to support children living in crisis in countries like Sudan and around the world.


*Name has been changed to protect anonymity




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Emily Wight, Global Media Manager: Emily.Wight@savethechildren.org   


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