Smoke rises in Khartoum, Sudan on Saturday, as gunfire and heavy artillery fire continued despite the extension of a cease-fire between the country’s two top generals. Marwan Ali/Associated Press

More than 800,000 people could flee Sudan if fighting continues, triggering a massive refugee crisis in the region, the United Nations’ refugee agency has warned.

Already, more than 100,000 refugees have fled Sudan, which was plunged into violence three weeks ago by two warring generals, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced internally, U.N. officials said Tuesday at a briefing in Geneva. The International Organization for Migration also said that 334,053 people had been internally displaced within the country since fighting broke out April 15.

U.N. Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator Martin Griffiths, who is expected to travel to Sudan soon, said the situation is reaching a “breaking point.”

The latest influx of displaced people will add to the challenges of Sudan’s neighbors, who are hosting a large number of Sudanese refugees from previous conflicts. Some 30,000 people have arrived in recent weeks in Chad, already a temporary home to 400,000 refugees from its eastern neighbor.

Even before the crisis began, nearly 16 million Sudanese did not have enough to eat and needed aid. The U.N.’s World Food Program would have reached about 2.2 million of those directly with food assistance in May, said Shaun Hughes, WFP’s senior regional emergencies adviser, and planned to reach around another 5 million during 2023, including through cash transfers, farmer support, school meals or other programs.

But they had to suspend operations after three of their staff were killed in Darfur. Warehouses and offices there have also been ransacked and looted, and many vehicles stolen, he said.


Now the organization is hoping to restart about a fifth of its critical lifesaving operations in the four states with large refugee populations and relatively acceptable security, he said. But the situation in Darfur would likely prove more challenging; their stocks had been stolen, staff had been evacuated and aid workers could no longer move safely in a region rife with conflict and banditry.

International efforts to push the warring factions to a peace deal have grown more urgent, as recent cease-fires have not been completely observed. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation — which Sudan is a part of — will hold an emergency meeting in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday to discuss how to restore peace. Representatives of the two sides locked in combat could soon meet in Saudi Arabia for talks, a senior U.N. official told the Associated Press.


Sudanese and foreigners arrive in Port Sudan, the country’s main seaport, as they wait to be evacuated from Sudan on Saturday. Smowal Abdalla/Associated Press

Before fighting erupted, about 16 million people in Sudan required humanitarian assistance. Now, conflict is turning the humanitarian crisis into a “full-blown catastrophe,” said Abdou Dieng, the top U.N. aid official in the country said Monday.

The conflict pits Sudan’s military, under the leadership of de facto head of state Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces of Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti. The power struggle between the two generals has killed at least 500 people and injured thousands, according to the United Nations.

Amid widespread human misery, many citizens are without adequate food, power or water. The public health system was on the verge of collapse, with a majority of hospitals not operating, according to the World Health Organization. Residents of Khartoum, the capital, who ventured outdoors Monday saw bodies and looting, Reuters reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken phoned African leaders, including Comorian President Azali Assoumani, who holds the rotating chair of the African Union, on Monday to press for collective action to bring an end to the fighting.


International evacuations continued, with three U.S.-facilitated convoys taking 700 people, including Americans and nationals from partner countries, from Khartoum to Port Sudan over the past few days, a State Department spokesman said Monday. Many will then travel to Jiddah. More than 2,100 people have been evacuated by Britain from Sudan, the U.K. Foreign Office said Monday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said early Tuesday that four planes evacuated about 200 citizens of Russia and neighboring countries from Sudan.

Nigeria’s Azman Air will also evacuate citizens stuck on the chaotic Egypt border Tuesday, the airline said on Twitter.


The Washington Post’s Missy Ryan in Washington contributed to this report.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: