All eyes on raging conflict in Sudan with fears of cross-border displacements

Saturday June 24 2023

Refugees from Sudan who crossed into Ethiopia rest in Metema, on May 5, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


On June 20, the World Refugee Day, was marked under the theme “Hope away from home: Overcoming barriers to refugee inclusion.” A positive mantra but not for refugees in Sudan, where people who had fled violence in their countries are now on the run back to places that are not ready to receive them – or seeking refuge in a third country.

Speaking on June 19 at the ministerial-level pledging event to support the humanitarian response in Sudan and the region, UNHCR boss Filippo Grandi said the tragedy unfolding in Sudan risks spilling over its borders.

Until April 15, when Khartoum descended into chaos, about 1.1 million refugees had found hope away from home in Sudan – Africa’s second-largest refugee hosting country after Uganda, with 1.54 million.

But reports now indicate that the conflict and the resulting humanitarian crisis in Sudan are spiralling out of control, forcing many citizens and refugees to flee.

Read: Sudan war drives 100,000 refugees over border

"Since the onset of this conflict, the refugee number stands at 365,000, majority fleeing to Egypt and Chad, while 113,000 South Sudanese that had sought refuge in Sudan are now being forced to return home in adverse conditions, and this number could rise to 204,000 by December, "the UN Refugee Agency said.


The agency projects that over the next six months, some 1.1 million people will flee across borders due to the violence in Sudan, and more than half of this number – 640,000 – being refugees from Sudan and other conflict affected countries.


A week before the World Refugee Day, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) and the East African Community – which together host 5.5 million refugees – held a ministerial conference at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala to develop durable solutions for the refugee crisis.

The two blocs are home to only six percent of the world’s population, but most of the regions’ 12 countries are hotspots of war and violence – the main drivers of forced displacement.

With active conflicts in Sudan, as well as recent wars that have since been suspended to allow the peace processes in Ethiopia and South Sudan to deliver long term stability, in addition to the volatile Somalia, that experiences random terrorist attacks, Igad is teeming with internally displaced populations.

Read: Horn nations keep passing refugee baton

According to UNHCR, East and Horn of Africa region has one of the highest concentrations of displaced populations, currently standing at 19.7 million as a result of conflict and drought.

“This conference cannot discuss durable solutions while we continue to displace our people. Like what is happening in Sudan,” said Mohammed Abdi Affey, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa.

Uganda’s Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hillary Onek described the conflict in Sudan as “a senseless war of egos” that continues to “kill and displace innocent people” which must stop.

The Igad-EAC ministers raised fears that refugee hosting countries are burdened by the high numbers of refugees and asylum seekers, with barely enough relief support, and the Sudan conflict will worsen humanitarian needs which relief agencies are struggling to meet.


On June 19, UNHCR announced that at a ministerial-level fundraising event in Geneva, donors had pledged nearly $1.5 billion to fund life-saving relief efforts in Sudan and the region to avert what they described as a humanitarian catastrophe.

But UNHCR warns these efforts will meet the humanitarian needs only if the warring parties stop the conflict.
The current and projected costs to address loss and damage are enormous, with some sources projecting them at between $290 billion and $580 billion annually by 2030.

Read: UN seeks $3bn for Sudan, refugees

Now the blocs want increased humanitarian funding for refugees, host communities and IDPs in form of grants as opposed to loans, as the political leaders work at building sustainable regional peace and security.

They also seek to mobilise higher investments, including carbon credits, against negative effects of climate change on refugee host countries and build community resilience against natural hazards in the sub-region which is 70 percent arid and semi-arid.