Sudan. The situation in Sudan has turned into a major disaster, especially for children, according to Mandeep O’Brien, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative in the country.
The ongoing war is causing immense suffering for the youngest citizens, creating what can only be described as a terrible nightmare for them.
Nearly 10 months of clashes between the Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have left 14 million children in desperate need of lifesaving assistance, making it the world’s largest child displacement crisis.
The conflict has led to the displacement of more than 3.5 million boys and girls, creating an unprecedented crisis. Many children have been uprooted multiple times, facing the harsh realities of war and instability.
This mass displacement has resulted in severe challenges, including limited access to safe drinking water, exposing over 7.4 million young Sudanese to waterborne diseases.
Health Risks and Malnutrition
Compounding the crisis is the lack of access to healthcare and vaccinations. Almost two million children are in urgent need of lifesaving vaccines, while Sudan also grapples with one of the highest rates of child malnutrition globally.
More than three million children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, and 700,000 of them could succumb to its severest form without immediate medical intervention.
Education At Risk
The war has also disrupted education, with 19 million school-age children out of the classroom, putting Sudan at risk of a severe learning crisis.
The long-term implications are dire, with an estimated $26 billion lifetime earning loss for the country if this trend continues. Education is not just about acquiring knowledge; it is a powerful tool for building peace and fostering values of safety and coexistence.
Efforts by UNICEF to persuade Sudanese authorities to reopen schools face challenges, including the non-payment of teachers since the onset of the conflict.
The absence of salaries for teachers and frontline workers has become a significant obstacle to resuming education for children.
To mitigate the impact on education, UNICEF and its partners have implemented child-friendly spaces known as “makannas” – places where internally displaced children can feel safe while continuing their education through e-learning and cost-effective digital solutions.
More than 850 makannas have been established, benefiting over 250,000 children who also receive psychosocial support to address trauma resulting from the war.
Healthcare Struggles, Vaccination Campaigns
The conflict has strained Sudan’s health system, with UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and partners working to provide essential services amid disease outbreaks.
Vaccination campaigns, particularly against measles, have been crucial, with over a million children vaccinated.
A recent campaign aims to vaccinate over five million children against measles and rubella in seven states, supported by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi).
International Appeal for Peace
Despite the ongoing conflicts in other parts of the world, UNICEF remains committed to addressing the crisis in Sudan. Last year, they reached millions with health supplies, screened for malnutrition, and treated severe cases.
However, a plea for increased funding is made to meet the growing needs of children, women, and families affected by the war. Most importantly, a call for coordinated international and regional efforts is emphasised to find a political solution and bring peace to Sudan.
Rebel Leader Gen. Dagalo Willing To End Conflict
On December 27, 2023, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Sudanese rebel leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo ‘Hemedt’ held a meeting. The engagement unfolded at President Museveni’s residence in Rwakitura, Kiruhura district.
The primary objective of the meeting was to explore viable solutions to quell the escalating conflict in Sudan, a nation grappling with the aggressive advances of General Hemedti’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia, which has been steadily capturing new territories from government forces.
The deliberations aimed at promoting diplomatic initiatives and devising strategies to bring stability and peace to the troubled region.
The RSF, under Dagalo’s leadership, attempted a coup d’état in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, on April 15, 2023, aiming to take control of key locations such as Khartoum airport, the presidential palace, and army bases.
After the coup attempt, widespread fighting has persisted across various regions of Sudan, leading to the displacement of up to 300,000 people, as reported by the United Nations on December 21.
In a statement issued after the meeting with Museveni, Gen. Dagalo expressed concern over the suffering of the Sudanese people due to the ongoing conflict.
He provided President Museveni with a detailed explanation of the reasons behind the outbreak of the war, attributing it to remnants within the armed forces and parties obstructing a solution.
Dagalo presented the RSF’s vision to negotiate, cease hostilities, and establish a new, just foundation for the Sudanese state.
According to Dagalo, President Museveni pledged full support for the Sudanese people and committed to leveraging his capabilities and relationships to help overcome the challenging phase in Sudanese history.
Dagalo conveyed gratitude for Museveni’s warm welcome and hospitality, as well as the solidarity of the Ugandan people who have hosted a significant number of Sudanese refugees forced to flee their homeland.
Amid international pressure on Dagalo to cease fighting, with potential war crimes prosecution looming, he reiterated adherence to the outcomes of the IGAD Presidents’ Summit in Djibouti.
Dagalo affirmed the commitment to implement measures aimed at ending the war, alleviating the suffering of the Sudanese people, and restoring security and stability to the country.
The question lingers, will the diplomatic engagement between Museveni and Dagalo mark a potential turning point in the Sudanese conflict?
However, efforts are underway to find a peaceful resolution and address the humanitarian crisis resulting from the protracted violence.