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Sudan, a conflict forgotten. Australia absent from another humanitarian crisis

by Naomi Brooks and Amad Mohamed | Jun 30, 2024 | Comment & Analysis, Latest Posts

While the mass murders in Gaza continue unabated and remain under-reported by mainstream media, another conflict rages in central Africa that hardly rates a mention. Naomi Brooks and Amad Mohamed report on the civil war in Sudan.

Abdallah, a Sudanese Australian living in Canberra, is one of many Sudanese Australians hearing heartbreaking stories of his own family living in a displaced camp near the besieged city of El Fasher. His six-year-old niece was tragically killed by a rocket last week, cutting her in half while she was running amid the chaos caused by the Rapid Security Force’s indiscriminate attack on the camp.

Those who have no option but to remain in the camp, including Abdallah’s parents, remain without food and have lost hope, eagerly waiting to be comforted by death. The pain of such personal loss is compounded by reports of tens of thousands of people dying in the desert near the Sudanese-Egyptian border due to extreme heat and a lack of support.

Maybe one day, world leaders will reflect on commemoration days marking the anniversary of this conflict and admit that the international community failed the people of Sudan. They will say that there was much more that could have been done to stop this bloody conflict from becoming the humanitarian catastrophe it has.

They will also say that it came at a time when Gaza was occurring and that our global systems were under pressure. They will say that they failed people like Abdallah’s niece, and the rest of Sudan, which is currently fast heading toward the abyss.

Darfur Genocide

Reminiscent of the Darfur genocide in 2003, the horror and terror of the siege of el-Fasher in northern Sudan today cannot be simply compared to anything else. The last hospital has closed, with humanitarian workers under such a threat that even they, those who have committed to assisting people facing these conflicts, cannot go on.

In May, a Human Rights Watch report found evidence that a genocide may have been committed in El-Geneina in Darfur, and that ethnic cleansing had occurred. In Al Jazeera State in central Sudan, an agricultural region known as ‘Sudan’s food basket’, people in their once safe villages are now totally disconnected from the outside world and facing death by guns and hunger.

This dire situation is evidenced by the horrific massacre that took place in Wad Al-Nurah village early last week, resulting in more than 150 deaths in a single day in one village. Concerns remain that a similar massacre is yet to occur in el-Fasher. Trapped in this besieged area, the one million civilians in el-Fasher waiting for death to hit their door, must only be wondering when the world will pay attention and take action to stop this nightmare from continuing to unfold.

Ten million people displaced

The scale of destruction and need in Sudan is staggering. More than 10 million people are now confirmed to be displaced from their homes, including over 2 million crossing international borders into some countries that already face their own economic and social tensions.

Tens of thousands of people are confirmed to have been killed, a number which is certainly much higher, with the United States Special Envoy for Sudan estimating up to 150,000 civilians killed. 18 million people are acutely hungry and 3.6 million children acutely malnourished. It is a war disproportionately affecting the next generation,

with a quarter of those displaced being under five years old.

Australias absence

Australia was absent at the recent Paris Conference which marked the anniversary of the crisis in April. With our allies making commitments commensurate with the scale of need, Australia’s absence feeds into a longstanding narrative of Africa ‘not being our problem’, or ‘too far away’.

This may be one of the biggest humanitarian catastrophes we have seen in a generation.

This hits home for the 13,000 Australian Sudanese diaspora living in Australia, who are urgently demanding humanitarian assistance from their government to help alleviate the suffering of those affected by the ongoing war in Sudan.

While this community appreciated the $20.5M humanitarian package committed by the Australian Government for Sudan in 2023, much more is necessary to meet the escalating needs. The diaspora expects a response that reflects the boundless generosity of the Australian public, known for their compassionate support towards global humanitarian crises.

The diaspora sees Australia’s potential to lead by example in this moment and provide substantial relief whilst also emphasising the deep moral obligation to support those who are suffering profoundly, despite where they may live in the world.

Relief funding

Africa receives the highest amount of funding through members of the Australian Council for International Development globally, accounting for almost a quarter of all funds to international projects (24.2 per cent). Data for the financial year 2021-22 reveals 625 international projects received a total of $267.6M across 32 African countries delivered through 44 Australian NGOs. A third of this funding was contributed by donations and other income, followed by non-monetary donations.

With ambition for another United Nations Security Council seat, this government must tap into the generosity of the Australian public and prioritize humanitarian need where it is greatest, right now, in Sudan.

On the ground in Sudan today, families share horrific stories of their daily struggles, marked by a severe lack of medical supplies, food, and safety. Accounts of innocent and vulnerable people living in slave-like conditions are all too common. Those in internally displaced camps in Darfur face unimaginable hardships, with many unable to cope with constantly spending their days burying young children and women who have died from starvation, all while avoiding the next militant attack.

The Sudanese diaspora and the humanitarian community in Australia are desperate for this government to provide the urgent assistance needed to save lives and restore some semblance of hope and security for those left behind.

Editors Update: DFAT recently added another $29M in relief funding to the Horn of Africa, including $13M to Sudan and its neighbours.

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Naomi is the humanitarian advisor at the Australian Council for International Development. Naomi leads all humanitarian immediate responses, developments, and long-term policy and advocacy efforts, including coordination of ACFID’s Humanitarian Reference Group and other humanitarian partnerships. Previously, Naomi has experience as a political advisor and studied a Masters in International Relations.

Amad Mohamed is the leader of the Sudanese Australian Advocacy Network and works in public service in Canberra. Previously, he served as a Senior Policy Officer for a Canberra-based consultancy specialising in social policy and program design, focusing on population diversity, social and community cohesion, and gender equality. Amad has also worked in the private sector and for a Middle Eastern diplomatic mission, where he gained extensive experience in international and bilateral diplomacy, trade and investment, and defence relations.

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