Sudan’s Emergency Response Rooms (ERRs)

Sudan’s Emergency Response Rooms (ERRs)

Stepping up whilst the international humanitarian system is missing in action 

Sudan is facing a brutal conflict that started in April 2023 between the Sudan Armed Forces and. The conflict has been devastating and continues to be thousands killed, millions displaced, and destroyed most health facilities. However, the humanitarian response is inadequate. Communities have formed self-help groups to cope with the situation. Some are known as Emergency Response Rooms (ERRs).  

This research paper is based on qualitative data collected by the Sudan Crisis Coordination Unit (SCCU) from 28 ERRs in 28 ERRs in 7 states (Khartoum, White Nile, Sennar, Kassala, Gadarif, Northern state and River Nile), and other local actors. The paper describes the structure, function, benefits and challenges of the ERRs and makes recommendations for supporting them to improve the humanitarian response in Sudan. 

Over the past six months, researchers at Shabaka’s Sudan Crisis Coordination Unit (SCCU) have mapped 28 ERRs through on-site visits and remote research. In some regions, such as Al Gezira and Blue Nile states, communities have eschewed the ERR model in this crisis in favour of other forms of organisation. In others, especially Khartoum, the ERRs are arguably the critical humanitarian actors, with an extensive network of rooms operating in various areas of the state. 

Our findings reveal that in much of the country, the ERRs play an essential role in the humanitarian response as part of a diverse landscape of local actors but also face significant challenges. We identify gaps in support to ERRs that should urgently be addressed given the deepening humanitarian crisis in Sudan.  

The report makes the following recommendations to humanitarian donors and international humanitarian actors: 

  • Providing adequate and flexible funding and resources ensures that ERRs have enough staff, equipment, supplies, and medicines to cope with the surge in demand.  
  • Enhancing coordination and communication among ERRs, other health facilities, and humanitarian agencies to facilitate referrals, transfers, and information sharing.  
  • Strengthening security and protection for ERRs, their staff, and their patients to prevent attacks, harassment, and interference by armed groups or security forces.  
  • Promoting respect for medical neutrality and humanitarian principles and ensuring that ERRs are accessible to all people in need, regardless of their political affiliation, ethnicity, religion, or gender.  
  • Supporting capacity building and training for ERR staff, especially on trauma care, infection prevention and control, and mental health and psychosocial support.  

What are the Emergency Response Rooms (ERRs) 

ERRs are community-based initiatives that provide essential services to people affected by the conflict in Sudan. They emerged in response to the violence, displacement and near state collapse that started in April 2023. ERRs are not formal institutions but networks of local actors cooperating to help their communities survive. ERRs have a long tradition of mutual aid in Sudan, such as the nafeer solidarity practice. They also use some of the bureaucratic tools and language of the state and the humanitarian sector. ERRs have been active in previous crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have gained more visibility and recognition in the current situation. 

Notes 

  1. Khartoum, White Nile, Sennar, Kassala, Gedaref, River Nile and Northern states 
  2. Blue Nile, North Kordofan, South Kordofan, West Kordofan, Al Gezira 
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