Hundreds of thousands of people flee intense fighting in Sudan’s Wad Madani

Islamic Relief forced to suspend vital programmes and evacuate staff 

Around 300,000 people have fled the city of Wad Madani in central Sudan as fighting rages in and around the city, and desperate civilians are running out of safe places to go.  

Five days of heavy fighting has forced Islamic Relief and many other aid agencies to temporarily halt humanitarian work there and evacuate some staff out of the city.

Wad Madani has been an oasis of relative calm during the past eight months since war broke out across Sudan, and around half a million people have sought shelter in the city after fleeing violence in other parts of the country. Now they have to flee again.

The city is the capital of Sudan’s Al Jazirah province, a major agricultural region known as the country’s breadbasket. The new fighting there risks worsening Sudan’s already extreme hunger crisis, with more than 20.3 million people across the country already facing acute food insecurity as the war has forced people off their land and stopped farmers from planting. With the capital Khartoum extremely dangerous, Wad Madani has become a hub for aid agencies and the latest fighting will further hamper the aid effort across the country.

Islamic Relief staff remaining in Wad Madani report that intensive fighting has continued throughout today. Other staff fled to the town of Sennar only to find it too was under attack.

Elsadig Elnour, Islamic Relief’s Country Director in Sudan, was in Wad Madani when the fighting broke out: “In Wad Madani Islamic Relief has been providing people with emergency aid and supporting local hospitals with food, fuel and medicine. But we’ve had to suspend our programmes and evacuate some of our staff – especially female staff, as we feared for their safety in the city as sexual violence increases.

“Tens of thousands of people previously fled to Wad Madani believing it was safe. They’re now on the move again – many have fled further south to Sennar, where many people are now sleeping on the streets. Others are going to Gedaref in eastern Sudan.

“The area where people feel safe in our country is shrinking smaller by the day. We fear this fighting will now spread east to Gedaref, which is a hub for the humanitarian response across the country.”

Wad Madani has been under the control of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), but the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) now claim to have captured the city. Fighting began last Friday and has intensified since then.

All of Islamic Relief’s staff in Al Jazirah are Sudanese – some of them have now been evacuated to other parts of Sudan, while some of the local staff from Wad Madani have remained in the city. The city’s main bridge and markets are all closed.

Sudan’s conflict, which broke out in April, has so far forced at least 5.4 million people from their homes. 24.8 million people in Sudan are in need of humanitarian aid.