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Sudan: Trapped civilians organize relief online

April 20, 2023

As the fighting rages on between Sudan's rival generals, Khartoum residents sheltering inside their homes have come together on social media to pool aid and support. Medics have joined the efforts.

Smoke billowing over the rooftops of Khartoum
Amidst ongoing explosion and gunfire, Khartoum residents are trapped in their homesImage: AFP

As fighting rages on across Sudan's Khartoum, many of the capital's 6 million residents are trapped in their homes facing dwindling food supplies, power outages, and a lack of running water. Now, citizens are turning to online messenger groups to crowd-source supplies and share support.

Medical professionals are joining the efforts, uploading first-aid video tutorials and contact details to address medical emergencies remotely via phone or text, as AFP reported.

The violence, which erupted on Saturday has so far killed nearly 300 people, according to the United Nations health agency WHO. But the numbers are hard to verfiy, as many bodies are still lying uncollected in the streets.

On Thursday, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, Chairman of Sudan's Transitional Sovereign Council, stated there was "no room" for negotiations with Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

Doctors warn of dangers to the health sector

Nabeel Arman, Secretary General of Sudan Doctor's Union, called the situation "catastrophic." He told the Associated Press that "airstrikes have targeted hospitals" and that "shrapnel from machine guns" had caused local hospitals to "go out of service."

"The worst thing that is happening is the pile-up of bodies in the streets, in addition to the water cuts, which compound the environmental, health, and humanitarian risks."

Some hospitals have shut down because they are overwhelmed, while others were swiftly taken over as attack bases and have become launch pads for both sides, according to Arman.

Abdalla Hussein, Operational Manager for Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said the fighting had disrupted MSF's operations in various parts of the country.

"We cannot go to the programs we were running before. We are mostly suspended, except in a few places like in the east and the Blue Nile."

Arman has called on both sides to stop the fighting and provide more protection for humanitarian workers.

"First thing, stop the gunfire and (say) 'no' to the war, and there must be real safe humanitarian corridors on the ground," he said.

Evacuating foreign citizens

Kenya plans to evacuate all of its citizens living in Sudan — including 400 students — in the event of a cease-fire.

"We have a big problem in Sudan. Bombing is escalating, we have about 3,000 Kenyans stuck in Sudan, and they are scared; they are in their homes," Cabinet Secretary for Foreign  Affairs, Alfred Mutua, told local reporters. 

"We’ve talked to Kenya Airways, and they are ready if things get out of hand to bring Kenyans back here."

Tanzania also has at least 210 nationals stranded in Sudan, of which 171 are students, according to Tanzania's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stergomena Lawrence Tax. 

Stranded people in Khartoum standing with their luggage
Many foreigners are stranded in Sudan's capital Khartoum since fighting broke out between rival generalsImage: AFP

"We have called on them to stop the fighting as soon as possible, and to use peaceful means, because war does not benefit anyone," she said. "We will continue to look at this situation: If the fighting is stopped, there might be no reason for our citizens to leave."

Trapped Nigerian students have called on their government to repatriate them back home via social media platforms. 

"We hereby write soliciting and yearning for the Nigerian government’s intercession to rescue and send for an immediate evacuation of the Nigerian students that are stuck in the center of the ongoing war," the National Association of Nigerian Students, Sudan (NANSS) said in a letter the group shared on Twitter.

Calls for new cease-fire

On Wednesday, Kenya's president William Ruto, who is among mediators tasked with brokering peace in Sudan, called for an end to the fighting in the country, warning it could destabilize the region.

"It is time to silence the guns in our region and continent so that we can focus on the urgent work of enabling our people to pursue opportunities and actualize their aspirations in peace and tranquility. Time is of the essence," he said.

The most recently announced cease-fire for Tuesday and Wednesday failed as residents reported ongoing gunfire. The United Nations General Secretary Antonio Guterres has called for a three-day ceasefire starting Friday to mark the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday and allow residents to access relief.

Edited by Maren Sass