On Monday, the United Nations warned the ongoing violent conflict in Sudan–Africa’s third-most populous state–could force upwards of 800,000 people to flee into neighboring countries. This would be nothing short of a full-blown refugee crisis; Sudan’s U.N. humanitarian coordinator Abdou Dieng spoke of this scenario as a “full blown catastrophe.”
“In consultation with all concerned governments and partners, we’ve arrived at a planning figure of 815,000 people that may flee into the seven neighbouring countries,” Raouf Mazou, UNHCR assistant high commissioner for refugees, told a member-state briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.
A statement from the “relief chief” of the U.N. Martin Griffiths said the organization is “working with host governments and supporting local partners to help meet their immediate needs” under the leadership of the UN Relief Agency.” Griffiths is scheduled to visit the war-torn Sudan on Tuesday.
Thus far, hundreds have been killed and thousands have been wounded in the battles that have engulfed Sudan, with the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces clashing since the middle of April over a power struggle for military and political leadership. Since a coup in 2021, Sudan has been run by a council of generals. Sudan’s military ruler and head of the army Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (widely known as Hemedti), the country’s deputy and head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group used to be allies, but tensions crossed the point of no return after negotiations broke down over the future of the nation’s power structure, role of the RSF, and potential move to civilian rule.
Foreign governments have pulled their citizens and diplomats out of Sudan over the past week in a series of operations by air, sea and land. The withdrawal of embassy personnel is typically seen as an acknowledgment of high levels of danger.
Both sides are technically still observing a ceasefire that was extended on Sunday, but there has still been sporadic gunfire and air strikes on Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. There’s a hope that peace talks can begin in Saudi Arabia, where the goal would be a more durable truce with the involvement of international organizations. But safe passage through hostile territory would need to be ensured for both sides to even make it to the negotiating table.