Emergency response scales up as conflict in Sudan escalates after two months of fighting

21 Jun 2023

Since fighting broke out in Sudan more than two months ago, thousands of people have fled the raging conflict and violent attacks, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are on the ground increasing the emergency response and supporting local health providers as the number of refugees and their needs increases every day. 

Flooding threatens access to care in Chad 

The arrival of the rainy season is expected to have devasting consequences for these refugees, who may not be able to access vital medical humanitarian assistance when roads flood. 

Neighbouring countries like Chad, Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan already have stretched healthcare systems, so a coordinated effort is critical to address the needs of the thousands arriving to seek refuge. 

More than 100,000 people have crossed the border into Chad since the start of the fighting in Sudan. We fear that with the coming rainfall, people in this area will be trapped and forgotten, with no access to critical lifesaving services.

Audrey van der Schoot
Head of Mission in Chad

In response, MSF started an emergency project with health authorities in Sila region, running mobile clinics to reach Sudanese refugees, Chadian returnees and host communities in Andressa and Mogororo refugee sites. The clinics provide screening and treatment of acute malnutrition, sexual and reproductive healthcare and referrals for secondary healthcare.  

In just three weeks, medical teams treated 1,460 patients, the majority are children suffering from malnutrition, respiratory infections, acute watery diarrhoea and malaria; all of which are associated with their precarious living conditions. More than 600 war-wounded Sudanese arrived in just three days, seeking urgent medical care. 


An MSF pharmacist at the mobile clinic opened at Andressa school to provide medical care to Sudanese refugees and host communities in Sila province. After their consultations, patients refer to him to receive free medication and explanations on how to use them. © Johnny Vianney Bissakonou/MSF

Women and children travel weeks to reach care in CAR 

Sudanese refugees are fleeing to the northern part of Central African Republic (C.A.R.). More than 80 per cent of these refugees are women and children, as many men stayed in Sudan to fight. One mother told us that she had made the journey with her children from Khartoum, which took more than two weeks over 1,000 kilometres. 

Everyone arrives exhausted from Sudan, and many of the children are ill.

Issa Mousa
Deputy head of mission

At the beginning of June, the Central African government started relocating refugees from Am Dafok an area near the border to the town of Birao, which is more stable, about 65 kilometers away. With the rainy season looming, this move needed to happen as soon as possible, otherwise the road between the two sites could become inaccessible from flooding.  

The new site in Birao has many unmet medical needs, so MSF is providing medical care, supplying water daily, and constructing a temporary health facility for all those arriving.

Our medical teams are also working in the local hospital, to support the Ministry of Health to provide pediatric care, intensive nutritional care for those suffering with acute malnutrition, medical-surgical emergencies for those who are founded from the conflict, mental health care to those who have fled the conflict and support the laboratory to improve the safety of blood transfusions by providing medical equipment and training the teams. 


MSF teams providing pediatric care at a temporary health post constructed in the town of Birao, where refugees are being relocated. © MSF

Coordination is critical in South Sudan 

More than 127,000 people have sought refuge in South Sudan, mostly in Renk in Upper Nile state. Today, between 800 to 1,000 people cross into Renk each day on donkey carts, often after making long and dangerous journeys to reach the border. Many people seeking refuge, following the surge in armed conflict that started more than two months ago, are now struggling for survival at transit centres in Upper Nile and Northern Bahr El Ghazal states

An already stretched healthcare system and limited humanitarian response in the area cannot absorb the additional need. A coordinated effort is critical to address the needs of the thousands arriving from Sudan.

Jocelyn YAPI
Head of Mission

In Renk, the main transit centre currently hosts more than 12,000 people, many more than its capacity and available aid. Hundreds of families have set up camp outside the transit centre, shading themselves from the sun with whatever materials they can find. 

Poor living conditions in the transit camps are already having a negative impact on people’s health and, with the onset of the rainy season, the situation could become catastrophic, warns MSF. 

MSF has launched emergency responses in Upper Nile and Northern Bahr El Ghazal states, running three mobile clinics in Renk and one in Aweil. In Renk, MSF water and sanitation teams are treating river water to provide safe drinking water for displaced people, while medical teams are screening children for malnutrition and have set up a measles isolation ward.

MSF teams are also providing referrals for people in need of specialist medical care, as well as mental health support and health education. 


MSF collaborating with the Ministry of Health to run the clinic and coordinate transfers to nearby hospitals for cases that need to be admitted. © MSF/Ala Kheir

As these countries experience the repercussions of the conflict in Sudan, the humanitarian crisis in these neighbouring areas is deepening. People in Chad, CAR, and South Sudan continue to be exposed to multiple shocks caused by armed conflict, extreme weather changes, and recurrent outbreaks of preventable and treatable diseases. These latest events are increasing the vulnerability of refugees.