Sudan: a man-made humanitarian disaster

The world has not faced such a large number of conflicts since the end of the Second World War.One such conflict began exactly one year ago in Sudan, with catastrophic consequences for the civilian population. Hunger is widespread and millions of people have been displaced. Switzerland is working to mitigate the consequences of the conflict both through its international cooperation and peacebuilding programmes and within the UN Security Council.

Sudanese women, men and children stand close together on the back of a blue lorry.

The war in Sudan, which began a year ago, has triggered one of the largest refugee movements in the world. More than 8.6 million people are on the run from the hostilities. © Keystone

Violence escalated in Sudan, Africa's third-largest country by area with a population of around 46 million, in mid-April 2023, and an armed conflict has been raging there ever since. The ongoing fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary militia, has left thousands dead or injured. As a result of the conflict, the country is facing one of the worst man-made humanitarian disasters of our time: according to UN figures from early February 2024, around 25 million people in Sudan, including 14 million children, are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. Nearly 20 million face acute hunger. The country is suffering from severe shortages of essentials, particularly food, water, shelter and medical care. 

The conflict has also triggered mass displacement. More than 8.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes, with around 2 million seeking refuge in neighbouring Chad, South Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic. Switzerland is actively engaged in mitigating the consequences of the conflict in Sudan and the wider region through its international cooperation, peacebuilding efforts, and multilateral efforts, leveraging its influence within the UN Security Council.

Direct support for people on the ground 

Switzerland has provided direct support to those affected by the conflict in Sudan and the surrounding region through its international cooperation programmes, allocating CHF 64 million in 2023. The SDC maintains a presence in Juba, South Sudan. In 2023, it provided additional funding of CHF 18.1 million to support its partner organisations, primarily UN agencies, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the ICRC, in addressing humanitarian needs. Activities are focused on border areas where large numbers of refugees are arriving. One example is the town of Renk in the north-east of South Sudan, which has become a sanctuary for large numbers of refugees from Sudan. 

Women, children and young people who have fled Sudan wait with their belongings in a desert landscape.
Sudanese refugees wait to be taken to the transit camp in the border town of Renk after crossing the border into South Sudan. © Keystone

Over 730,000 Sudanese nationals have fled to the neighbouring state of Chad, which is itself affected by political instability and economic hardship. In N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, the SDC has provided funds totalling CHF 11.2 million to support Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad, focusing its aid on health, education and food security. 

Peace diplomacy

Switzerland has a long tradition of providing good offices in Sudan. In January 2002, for example, it hosted ceasefire negotiations at the Bürgenstock resort in the canton of Nidwalden and made a significant contribution to bringing an end to the decades-long civil war under the 2005 peace agreement. Switzerland remains actively engaged in offering its good offices in Sudan. Through its peace diplomacy instruments and its special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Switzerland is working in particular to create opportunities for inclusive dialogue aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict. 

Commitment to peace and international humanitarian law at the UN 

Switzerland is also working at the multilateral level to promote peace, ensure the protection of the civilian population, improve the humanitarian situation and find a political solution to the conflict in Sudan. As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Switzerland supported a resolution on 7 March 2024 calling for an immediate end to hostilities and urging the parties to the conflict to work towards a sustainable solution, fully comply with international humanitarian law, and allow safe, rapid, and unhindered access for humanitarian aid. 

14 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council raise their hands and pass a resolution.
On 7 March 2024, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a ceasefire and safe and unhindered humanitarian access in Sudan. © UN Photo

"We reiterate our urgent appeal to the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces to immediately cease hostilities, comply with their obligations under international law and protect the civilian population," said the Swiss embassador to the UN, Pascale Baeriswyl, at a Security Council briefing on the situation in Sudan on 7 March 2024. In New York, Switzerland also called on the parties to the conflict to immediately resume ceasefire negotiations and political dialogue. 

International donors conference in Paris

An international donors conference organised by France, Germany and the EU was held in Paris on 15 April 2024 to address the humanitarian emergency in Sudan. Switzerland was represented at the conference by Ambassador Nicolas Randin, SDC assistant director general and head of the Sub-Saharan Africa Division. The conference had two goals: first, to send a political signal calling on the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and provide urgently needed humanitarian access and, second, to mobilise financial contributions from the international community to fund humanitarian aid to Sudan in 2024. Switzerland pledged CHF 19 million. 

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