| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Struggling against odds: Humanitarian aid battles obstacles in Sudan

Millions of individuals in Sudan are in desperate need of assistance due to the prolonged conflict, resulting in a severe humanitarian crisis. Nonetheless, relief endeavors encounter substantial obstacles.
Funding shortages, security constraints, and bureaucratic obstacles imposed by local authorities have hindered the delivery of essential aid. And gaining access to conflict-affected areas has posed additional difficulties due to the disregard for humanitarian laws.

According to the UN, more than $3 billion is urgently required from international donors to support the humanitarian response in Sudan and the neighboring countries hosting large numbers of refugees.

However, during a pledging conference held in Geneva last week, donors only committed half of the required amount.

Kate Phillips-Barrasso, vice president of global policy and advocacy at Mercy Corps, said the significant funding gap presented a major obstacle to scaling up the response.

She noted her frustration with the international and regional communities for not providing adequate support and highlighted the need for self-reliance.

Aid groups are currently facing difficulties in distributing the limited resources available. While nearly 3 million people have received aid since April, the absence of safe humanitarian corridors to conflict-affected areas has forced individuals to heavily rely on neighbors and mutual aid networks.

In addition to funding shortages, relief organizations face bureaucratic hurdles imposed by local authorities. Visa complications, supply import restrictions, and withheld permits have hampered the timely delivery of aid.

These measures, ostensibly for security purposes, have been seen as attempts to tighten control over humanitarian operations. Such bureaucratic obstacles have further exacerbated the suffering of those in need and limited the involvement of international agencies with the expertise and resources to address the crisis effectively.

Mukesh Kapila, a former UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Sudan, highlighted the unique challenges of delivering aid.

He told Arab News: “The nature of the conflict renders fighters on both sides indifferent to the rules of humanitarian law, making aid delivery dangerous and unpredictable. Foreign workers evacuated swiftly when violence erupted, and regaining access is difficult.

“Implementing smuggling operations on a larger scale might help, by strategically transporting aid to conflict areas to prevent targeting by looters and fighters. Local individuals, such as activists familiar with the ground realities, should take the lead in these efforts.”

The Sudanese Red Crescent Society, described as the country’s largest humanitarian responder, has also found security to be the main obstacle to its operations.

Barakat Faris Badri, the organization’s operations director, said that although they recently delivered supplies from the World Food Programme to the residents of Khartoum, the demand for assistance was far greater. The distribution of more food and increased action was urgently needed, he added.

The looting of humanitarian warehouses and offices has further compounded the challenges faced by aid agencies. To ensure the safety of their operations, organizations have been forced to close their Khartoum headquarters and relocate to the eastern city of Port Sudan, situated along the Red Sea.

Both the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army have been accused of involvement in the looting and diversion of aid, undermining their earlier commitments to facilitate humanitarian assistance following recent mediation efforts in Saudi Arabia.

William Carter, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Sudan, told Arab News: “To improve the situation, we are considering engaging with Chadian authorities to establish an operating base in Chad. This would facilitate the delivery of aid to Darfur.

“Additionally, obtaining consent from the Sudanese government and the Rapid Support Forces for cross-border assistance would be crucial.”

Carter pointed out the organization’s efforts in initiating an education and protection program, with a special emphasis on traumatized children.

He said: “The NRC is actively working with collective shelters for displaced people from Khartoum, and by supporting these locally led initiatives, we can ensure that the assistance provided is tailored to the specific needs of the communities.

“As we continue our work in Sudan, we are looking into expanding our relief efforts and exploring the possibility of implementing cash-based programs. This approach can provide affected individuals with the flexibility to get the items they need the most.”


  • Arab News