Sudan: Red tape exacerbates humanitarian crisis
Sudanese refugees are depending on private aid networks as deteriorating conditions plunge the population into a humanitarian disaster
Humanitarian and organizational hardships continue to dog the lives of Sudanese civilians in their country, on their way out of it and abroad amid an ongoing conflict.
"The situation is not yet globally [perceived as] a humanitarian crisis," Rania Abdelaziz, a Sudanese activist, told DW. By chance, she left Sudan's capital, Khartoum, ahead of the fighting to spend the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with her family in Cairo. Once the fights between the two warring generals, Abdel-Fattah Burhan and Mohammed Dagalo, also known as Hemeti, broke out in mid-April, she decided to stay in Egypt for the time being, and to help arriving Sudanese refugees.
Egyptian consulates and the embassy continue to issue tourist visas to Sudanese who want to cross the border, despite the ongoing clashes that have left around 5,000 injured and killed at least 550, according to the latest Health Ministry figures, which are highly likely to be incomplete.
"Sudanese people are not coming into Egypt as tourists; they are displaced and have become refugees," Abdelaziz said.
The problem with a tourist visa is that it grants access neither to the existing Egyptian aid network nor to international support options for refugees.
"There are high bureaucratic and administrative hurdles on both sides [of the Sudanese-Egyptian border] to get the necessary paperwork done to be able to enter Egypt legally, and there are no visa waivers in place at this time from the Egyptian side," Hager Ali, a researcher at the German think tank GIGA Institute for Global and Area Studies, told DW.
One of the main reasons for the slow processing of the visa applications of regular Sudanese people is the suspension and backlog of paperwork that resulted from the evacuation of diplomatic staff and internationals at the beginning of the clashes, Hager Ali added.
Many Sudanese also report in tweets on social media that there are still no refugee agencies present on the Sudanese side.
The Sudanese Embassy in Egypt does not provide any support, either, says Rania Abdelaziz. "They are not even at Egypt's border," she told DW.
Meanwhile, the situation at the Sudanese-Egyptian border crossing at Port Sudan has further deteriorated. Abdalla al-Fatih, a Khartoum resident who fled with his family, told the news agency The Associated Press earlier this week that when they arrived in Port Sudan after a 20-hour journey, they found thousands camping outside the port area. Many had been in the open air for more than a week, with no food or basic services in the sweltering heat.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR announced earlier this week that it will at last launch an inter-agency response plan at the Sudanese-Egyptian border and that it will also redirect some human resources and stockpiles from Chad and South Sudan "as soon as possible."
Such a humanitarian response plan might become even more urgent in the next days if the latest estimates by the United Nations prove to be correct.
On Tuesday, the UN spokeswoman Olga Sarrado said that if the conflict was not resolved soon, the international body estimates that the number of Sudanese refugees could increase from the current 100,000 to 800,000 people.
Sudanese form private aid network
Due to the lack of official support for Sudanese refugees in Egypt, the large Sudanese community there — which consists of Sudanese who have fled political unrest in their country in several waves in the 1990s, 2000s and since the ouster of long-term dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019 — has been stepping in.
"It's an amazing level of collaboration," Rania Abdelaziz says.
For example, a Sudanese school in Cairo that is closed due to the current holidays was quickly turned into a shelter, and Sudanese medics and psychologists help traumatized people.
New push for democracy
Sudan's humanitarian situation is likely to remain dire despite the extension of a cease-fire agreement. The country is widely cash-strapped, inflation has skyrocketed, there is little to no medical aid, electricity is only sparsely available, and food and water supplies are dwindling.
Even though several health organizations promised to resume work this week, much of their stock has been depleted and roads remain dangerous due to the ongoing fights. Also, "around 334,000 people have been displaced within Sudan," confirmed Olga Sarrado.
But on the political level, Sudan's democratic groups have decided to join forces once more and form a new coalition under the name of The Civilian Front for Ending the War and Restoring Democracy.
The group's predecessor, the Forces for Freedom and Change, had suffered from internal disputes over the question of military personnel in the government.
The individuals and groups under the new umbrella have the potential to become a political heavyweight once the fighting ends.
No fewer than 130 prominent Sudanese intellectuals, 13 women's organizations, 22 civilian organizations, 29 unions and trade associations, 12 political parties and groups and nine resistance committees signed the founding statement earlier this week.
"We are facing challenges," Zahra Hayder, the spokeswoman of the new democratic coalition, told DW, adding that "there is a lot of mistrust and a lack of acceptance of other opinions." She sees overcoming these obstacles in order to become trustworthy for the wider Sudanese population as the first and foremost challenge for the new group.
"But we also have a lot of strengths," Hayder said.
"The coalition bases on grassroot movements; it has a clear vision that exceeds stopping the war, and calls on the military to refrain from Sudan's political life," she told DW.
"There is huge hope on this front, and it could be the last choice for Sudan to become democratic and have sustainable peace."
DW has reached out to the Sudanese Embassy as well as several Sudanese consulates in Egypt but hasn't received an answer at the time of publication.
Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram
Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines