Women in Sudan have been living in catastrophic conditions since the outbreak of the April 15 war. More than 6 million have been displaced in recent months, the majority of them women and children. UNICEF said Sudan was experiencing the largest child displacement disaster, involving 3 million children, half of whom were girls. The country is in a state of complete collapse in basic services, including health, water and electricity. This is with most hospitals shut down and severe shortages of life-saving medicines. Due to power and communications cuts, the number of dead and wounded is an estimate, and the number of women is not known among the total numbers, which have been estimated at more than 12,000 since April. Entire cities and neighborhoods are under siege and fighting continues inside neighborhoods in Khartoum and the states of Darfur and Kordofan. The United Nations has received only 33 percent of the funding needed to provide humanitarian aid, with an estimated need of $2.6 billion. Humanitarian efforts to provide food and shelter continue to be carried out mostly through local efforts with some international humanitarian assistance in safer states. The alarming reports of looming famine and health catastrophe should awaken the world to save the lives of Sudanese women and children NOW!
Women under siege:
Thousands of women and girls in several neighborhoods in Khartoum state, Darfur and Kordofan states have been under siege by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) for several weeks. An estimated tens of thousands of citizens live in the neighborhoods of Al-Fatihab in the city of Omdurman, Albbasiya in the old Omdurman and the island of Tuti in central Khartoum under complete siege by the Rapid Support Forces. The RSF has imposed a curfew in several areas of Bahri in recent days. Residents of these areas, resistance committees and emergency rooms have launched urgent appeals to rescue thousands of residents who have been cut off from water and electricity and suffer from severe food shortages after citizens were prevented from moving by the Rapid Support Forces. This led to the closure of most shops after they ran out of stock. On the other hand, residents in the areas of Nyala, El Geneina, El Fasher and Zalingei have lived under siege under shelling for several days since the middle of last month. Communications and transportation were cut off from those areas for several weeks, as Sudanese army garrisons fell in most of Darfur states, where the lives of women and girls threaten the full control of militias accustomed to the use of systematic sexual violence. Women and girls in RSF-controlled areas live in constant terror and fear of sexual assault and harassment.
Situation in Darfur and Kordofan:
During the period from early November, war crimes occurred in Darfur, amounting to genocide, targeting specific ethnic groups in the El Geneina area, the Masalit group. Horrifying videos of mass killings of youth, children and women, as well as mass rapes, have leaked, according to those fleeing the area. The cities of Nyala, Zalingei and El Geneina fell into the hands of the RSF last October, leaving the region 70% in the hands of the militia, except for North Darfur and its capital, El Fasher, which is controlled by a number of armed movements that signed the Juba Peace Agreement in 2020. The city of um Rawaba in Kordofan also fell, and North Kordofan’s largest city, El Obeid, is under siege and constant skirmishes. There have been documented reports of the latest sexual violence in various regions of Darfur, including El Geneina, where women are targeted along ethnic lines for the second time in three months.
The city was subjected to displacement and genocide during June and July, and now the RSF is returning to repeat the same atrocities with the rest of the population in the area. Most of the residents of the cities of Nyala and El Fasher have been displaced to neighboring areas, while East Darfur remains the only state that enjoys relative stability as a result of understandings between the RSF and the community leaders in the region. The population in Darfur, especially women, suffers from difficulty in obtaining food, with the cessation of humanitarian aid and its difficult access to the region, the failure of the agricultural season, the depletion of food stocks, people forced to leave their areas due to the fighting and the loss of their means of livelihood and property. Women suffer from difficulty in accessing basic services such as primary health care and reproductive health, with hospitals closed or operating at minimum capacity and difficult to reach most of them.
The situation in Khartoum:
Since the first week of November, clashes between the army and the Rapid Support Forces have intensified in different areas of Khartoum, including the area of Jabal Awliya, Omdurman, Karari and areas of Bahri. The two forces have accused each other of demolishing a vital bridge linking Bahri and Omdurman. This has made it more difficult for citizens to move inside Khartoum. The ongoing fighting has left dozens dead and injured in Khartoum, many of them women and children. Entire neighborhoods in Khartoum have been displaced and depopulated by indiscriminate shelling of civilians on both sides. The number of internally displaced people in Khartoum state has increased in recent weeks and they are temporarily staying in schools in some neighborhoods that were considered relatively safe in Karary and Jabal Awlia areas.
The indiscriminate shelling and increased fighting this week have forced displaced people back to flee further afield on the outskirts of Khartoum. The shelters are full of hundreds of families, women and children, who lack access to food, water, electricity and clean water. Most electricity services were suspended, supply lines were destroyed by mutual bombardment, and communication towers in several areas and water stations were destroyed. This increases the risk of displaced women and children being exposed to hunger, which has reached the point of famine in several areas where residents and displaced people have only been able to eat one meal a day over the past months. With no safe roads and continued fighting, thousands of civilians in Khartoum, especially women and children, are at risk of imminent famine as humanitarian assistance is lacking in the area.
On the other hand, food insecurity is a threat to thousands of women and girls in areas where there is a rapid support blockade. Where there is no access to hospitals or the entry of medicines or medical staff to those areas. There are no ways for pregnant and breastfeeding women to receive health care or diets. Most of the children born after the war in all regions of Sudan receive the necessary vaccinations, which threatens a great health risk to an entire generation and threatens the spread of childhood diseases that have been previously eliminated. The authorities have banned the entry of medicines and surgical supplies, which have particularly affected the delivery of caesarean sections for women in Khartoum.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said it was forced to withdraw from one of the largest hospitals operating in southern Khartoum last month due to a lack of medical supplies. The difficulty of humanitarian access and the spread of diseases such as cholera have exposed thousands of pregnant and lactating women to deadly diseases in the absence of reproductive health care in Khartoum state. The United Nations says more than 3 million people are at risk of cholera as of December.
Access to drinking water and basic services
With water shortages, women’s share of drinking water decreases because they are unable to move safely to obtain sufficient water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene. With major water supply stations in most of Sudan’s fighting areas shut down, water pollution puts women and girls at risk of many diseases, including widespread intestinal diarrhea and cholera, which health ministry records report spreading to areas such as Khartoum’s east Nile. Rapid support controls the area and prevents the entry of most medical supplies except with great difficulty. “Most cholera patients in East Nile, including women and children, resort to drinking water with sugar and salt to avoid dehydration due to the lack of intravenous solutions necessary to avoid dehydration,” according to a resident of the area. Cholera is also spreading in Sudan’s eastern Gedaref region, which has been home to large numbers of people displaced from Khartoum and refugees from Ethiopia’s war in recent years.
- Both parties in the conflict halt hostilities, protect civilians and open humanitarian corridors within Sudan and towards borders under the supervision of international humanitarian organisations.
- Commit to Jeddah agreement to facilitate access of humanitarian aid to Khartoum and Darfur and other affected areas.
- International community must uphold to its commitments to protect civilians and protect women and girls, including provide funding to support women access to humanitarian aid.
- We call on the security council to establish protection mechanism for civilians in Sudan and uphold its commitments to protect women peace and security.