LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A leading Catholic aid agency says the crisis in Sudan has reached unprecedented levels, eclipsing even the most severe displacement crises worldwide.

Over 8.5 million Sudanese have been forced to flee their homes in Sudan since the war between rival militaries erupted in April 2023, according to the United Nations.

Telley Sadia, the Country Representative for Sudan for CAFOD, said this surpasses figures from Ukraine and Syria, and “urgent action is imperative.”

CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

“As violence persists into its second year, the humanitarian situation deteriorates rapidly, with 25 million Sudanese in need of immediate assistance,” Sadia said.

The civil war started in April 2023, involving fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group.

For months, the Sudanese army has struggled against the paramilitary forces, who have overrun most of Darfur and large parts of South Kordofan in western Sudan. More recently, the paramilitary troops have made progress in central and eastern Sudan.

Over 13,000 people are reported to have been killed, and thousands more injured. Over 1.8 million refugees have fled across the border into South Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Uganda.

Olga Sarrado, spokesperson for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said on Tuesday the civil war “has shattered people’s lives, filling them with fear and loss.”

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“Sudan has experienced the almost complete destruction of its urban middle class: architects, doctors, teachers, nurses, engineers, and students have lost everything,” she said.

“Access constraints, security risks and logistical challenges are hampering the humanitarian response. Without incomes, and amid disrupted aid deliveries and harvests, people cannot get food, prompting warnings of worsening hunger and malnutrition in parts of the country,” Sarrado added.

CAFOD is on the ground in Sudan and neighbouring countries, and Sadia says it is “working tirelessly” alongside the group’s local partners.

“The situation is dire; countless women and children, starving and traumatised, face unbearable circumstances. Action is not just necessary; it’s a moral imperative to prevent further devastation,” she said.

Sarrado said those crossing borders, mostly women and children, are arriving in remote areas with little to nothing and in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medical care.

“Many families have been separated and arrive in distress,” the UNHCR spokesperson said.

“Parents and children have witnessed or experienced appalling violence, making psychosocial support a priority,” she added.

On April 15, France, the European Union and Germany will host a humanitarian conference on Sudan in Paris, aimed at increasing funding for the response, overcoming obstacles to humanitarian access, and elevating the voices and role of local civil society organisations.

Meanwhile, Sadia said famine “looms ominously”.

The CAFOD representative said Sudan is threatening to become the worst food crisis in living memory.

“Despite harvest season, children are already succumbing to starvation, while food prices skyrocket. By June, up to 7 million people could face famine-like conditions,” she said.

“We call upon donor governments and leaders convening in Paris to swiftly allocate the $2.7 billion required for Sudan’s relief efforts. Funds must reach local responders promptly. We also call for an immediate ceasefire, civilian protection, and unimpeded humanitarian access,” she said.

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