How to improve humanitarian response in Sudan: six key points 

How to improve humanitarian response in Sudan: six key points 

Recommendations for the Sudan Humanitarian Conference

Cairo, Egypt (18-20 November 2023) 

Sudan faces a complex and protracted humanitarian crisis affecting millions of people. The country has been plagued by conflict, political instability, economic hardship, environmental degradation in addition to natural disasters. The humanitarian needs are immense, basic and diverse; ranging from food insecurity, malnutrition, health, water, sanitation, education, protection, to shelter and livelihoods.  

As humanitarian actors, we are responsible for responding to the needs of Sudan’s most vulnerable and affected populations. But how can we do this effectively and efficiently? How can we ensure our humanitarian work is principled, coordinated, inclusive and, above all else, sustainable?  

In this blog post, we share six key points that we recommend should guide our humanitarian work in Sudan. These points are based experience and on the inputs and feedback from local responders, civil society organisations, donors, UN agencies and other stakeholders. These points are not exhaustive or definitive but aim to stimulate discussion and reflection among the humanitarian community.  

1. Humanitarian principles should be the baseline: the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence should be the foundation of our humanitarian work in Sudan. They should inform all our decisions, actions and communications. They should also help us to uphold the do no harm principle, which means that we should avoid or minimise any negative or unintended consequences of our humanitarian interventions on the people and the environment. By adhering to the humanitarian principles and the do no-harm tenet, we can ensure that our humanitarian work is ethical, respectful and effective. We can also protect ourselves and our partners from potential harm or perceptions of aligning with politicised positions.  

2. Decentralise humanitarian response based on zones: A better way to do humanitarian work in Sudan is to decentralise it based on geographical zones. Having all the services and facilities in Khartoum, the capital city has not worked out well, as seen in the aftermath of the outbreak of conflict in 2019. Khartoum is too far from where most people in need are located, such as Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. It is also too congested and expensive to operate from. Port Sudan, the second largest city and a major port on the Red Sea coast is increasingly becoming an alternative hub for humanitarian operations. However, there is a risk that it becomes the only hub, and it is also still too far from some areas where people need help the most. Therefore, we need to establish more hubs or sub-offices in different zones of the country, such as West Darfur, South Kordofan and Gedaref. This will enable us to be closer to the people we serve, to respond faster and more efficiently, and help reduce costs and risks, and to build stronger relationships with local authorities and communities.  

3. Being in the room differs from being at the decision-making table: Local responders should have a voice in high-level policy and advocacy. Local responders are directly involved in delivering humanitarian assistance to the affected populations in Sudan. They include local NGOs, community-based organisations, faith-based organisations, women’s groups, youth groups, and professional associations. They have a wealth of knowledge, experience and networks that can inform and influence high-level policy and advocacy on humanitarian issues locally. However, they often face challenges accessing and participating in high-level forums and platforms where decisions are actually made and resources are allocated. To enable them to do this effectively, they must be provided with the tools and skills to do so and not just invited to be dressing. They need to be heard. They must also be prepared and supported before, during and after the conference and any similar high-level engagements. 

 For example,  

Before: They should be consulted on and involved in setting the agenda and priorities for the conference. They should also be briefed on the conference’s objectives, format and expected outcomes.  

During: They should be given adequate time and space to present their views and recommendations at the conference. They should also be able to network with other participants and stakeholders at the conference.  

After: They should be supplied with feedback and updates on the outcomes and actions of the conference. They should also be able to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the commitments made at the conference.  

4. Engage the diaspora: The Sudanese diaspora, of various generations, are not just watching the crisis from afar but are actively contributing to the humanitarian response. They send remittances, raise awareness, advocate for change, and provide technical expertise. They are also a source of resilience and hope for their families and communities in Sudan. Therefore, engaging the diaspora in the humanitarian response and supporting their initiatives and networks is imperative.  

5. Durable solutions for now, not later: The crisis in Sudan is not a short-term emergency that can be solved by humanitarian aid alone. It is a complicated and long-lasting humanitarian situation that demands lasting solutions. Durable solutions need to be identified and implemented to address the challenges of displacement and empower the displaced people to achieve self-reliance and integration in their current locations (whether in Sudan or other countries). This means providing access to basic services, livelihood opportunities, education, and legal protection. It also means addressing the root causes of the crisis and supporting peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts.  

6. Regional perspectives and protection for third-country nationals: The crisis in Sudan does not affect only Sudanese people. It has broader regional implications and consequences for neighbouring countries and beyond. Many have fled Sudan and sought refuge in other countries, such as Ethiopia, Chad, South Sudan, and Egypt. These countries are hosting large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers, often with limited resources and capacities themselves. The crisis in Sudan also affects third-country nationals who are living or working in Sudan, such as South Sudanese and Eritreans. These groups may face specific risks and vulnerabilities and need special attention and protection.  

These are the key points to remember when considering how to support the Sudanese crisis. The crisis is complex and multifaceted but not hopeless. There are ways to make a difference and help the Sudanese people overcome this difficult situation. 

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