Conflict, water shortages and humanitarian responses in Sudan

3 Jul 2023 by The Water Diplomat

Fighting between rival factions of Sudan’s military that erupted in mid-April has led to a worsening humanitarian situation in the country which includes increasing shortages of water and food. Fighting broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in various cities on the 15th of April. The conflict has continued for more than two months now, and inter-communal violence has also spread in the Darfur Region. According to an estimate by Action Against Hunger on the 21st of June, at least 866 people have been killed and more than 6,000 have been injured.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates that more than 2 million people had been displaced as a result of the conflict as of the 20th of June. The conflict has worsened a humanitarian situation which was already dire in the country, as the total number of people in need of humanitarian assistance increased from the estimated 15.8 million in 2022 to 24.7 million in May 2023, which represents a 57% increase.

Sudan is struggling with severe water shortages partly caused by direct damage to infrastructure as well as power shortages and lack of fuel. Some 300, 000 residents of Khartoum have been left without access to piped water for weeks, exposing households to security risks of fetching water amid the conflict.  There has been a sharp increase in the price of consumer goods, especially in the Khartoum area, with price increases of up to 1000% for fuel. Water shortages have been reported across Khartoum state, with water treatment systems out of operation. Authorities are reportedly unable to repair water treatment and supply systems due to security risks. As a result, the population has had to rely on unprotected sources of water such as the Nile River.

Part of the humanitarian response has therefore been to ensure the provision of safe water supplies and to conduct emergency repairs to water networks in partnership with technical specialists and local volunteer groups.  UNICEF reports that WASH technical group partners have worked to install and maintain sanitation facilities along the border with Egypt and has delivered hygiene equipment through a humanitarian corridor.

According to Action Against Hunger, the conflict is threatening the planting season: the optimum planting season for sorghum and millet is June-July, and this is being disrupted by the conflict. The agricultural sector in Sudan accounts for 35%-40% of GDP and employs 80% of the population. Sudan already has one of the highest child malnutrition rates in the world, and it is estimated that a further 2,5 million people could become acutely food insecure.