2021 in Review
Humanitarian needs in 2021
In 2021, Sudan witnessed political unrest, increased intercommunal violence, climate and disease outbreaks, and a generally weak economy with high inflation. This resulted in high levels of food insecurity, curtailed livelihood prospects and weak basic services, affecting vulnerable residents, IDPs and refugees.
Humanitarian partners estimated that about 13.4 million people – almost a third of the population – need humanitarian assistance, according to the Sudan Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) 2021. The severity of need increased in 2021. The people in need of emergency assistance for life-threatening needs related to critical physical and mental wellbeing increased substantially over 2021, from 7.3 million to 9.1 million. These increasing numbers show a clear deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Sudan in 2021.
In 2021, efforts to advance Sudan’s political transition and peace process continued despite considerable challenges. The economic hardship and the slow pace of the reforms resulted in growing frustration and public protests. Accountability for the violent events related to the 2019 revolution and for the subsequent violent crackdown remained a key demand of protestors. In line with the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA) requirements, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok reshuffled the Transitional Government in early 2021. The expanded Transitional Government subsequently outlined five priority areas related to socio-economic issues, peace, security, international relations and democratic transition. Throughout the year, political tensions escalated between the civilian and military components of Sudan’s transitional authorities, culminating in a military coup d’état on 25 October, after an attempted failed coup on 21 September. The armed forces detained Prime Minister Hamdok and several civilian officials and political leaders. Amongst other measures, the Commander of the Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, announced a state of emergency. Campaigns of civil disobedience and widespread protests rejected the military takeover and called for the establishment of a civilian-led democratic government. On 21 November, a political agreement was signed between Lieutenant General Al-Burhan and the Prime Minister stipulating, among other things, that the 2019 Constitutional Document would continue to form the basis for the transitional period.
Conflict and displacement
In Sudan, the number of people in need has increased to the highest point in the past decade. Large, protracted displacements continue, while returns are limited. Pockets of violence reported in the Darfur region, South Kordofan, Kassala and Red Sea states continue to lead to new displacements, tensions, and increased humanitarian needs. Since the beginning of the year, over 365,000 people have been newly displaced, many of whom were already displaced due to the crisis in Darfur in 2003- 2004 and South Kordofan from 2011 and onwards. Over 3 million displaced people in Darfur and other parts of the country remain in protracted displacement, requiring humanitarian assistance, including protection. The implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement remains slow and recent political uncertainty risks exacerbating existing tensions.
Refugees from the Tigray region in Ethiopia began to arrive in late 2020, totaling over 50,000 people in 2021. This has increased humanitarian needs in the east. Sudan hosts refugees from Chad, Ethiopia South Sudan and other surrounding countries. With over 1.1 million refugees and asylum-seekers, Sudan is the second largest host country in Africa.
In 2021, Sudan grappled with a worsening economic crisis for the fourth consecutive year. Positive steps, taken to reform the economy, risk being challenged by the 25 October military coup. In addition, high inflation eroded families’ purchasing power even as food prices rose. Together, these increase the likelihood of worsening already high levels of food insecurity and curtailed livelihood prospects, affecting vulnerable residents, IDPs and refugees.
This reduced resilience is expected to continue to drive humanitarian needs in 2022.
Sudan remains prone to hazards that include drought, conflict, floods and cyclical disease outbreaks, which drive humanitarian needs and affect thousands each year. In 2021, Approximately 340,000 people were affected by floods across Sudan. The agricultural season has been compromised by low and erratic rainfall in agricultural areas that have considerably affected food security and livelihoods, and nutrition and WASH sectors, which further increases the needs identified in the HNO.
In 2021, food insecurity continued to increase in areas not traditionally targeted for humanitarian assistance. As a result of conflict and factional fighting in 2021, thousands of IDPs, returnees and resident communities were displaced in the Darfur states, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan states. Families are struggling to meet their basic needs. According to health sector partners, the current level of health personnel staffing can care for 17 per cent of Sudan’s 47.9 million people. The COVID-19 epidemic in its second year, continues to put a strain on the ailing healthcare system. Sudan has lost almost twothirds of the local production capacity of essential medicines, increasing the need for imports. Despite the increase in imported medicines in 2021 compared with 2020, availability remains a critical gap.
Weak basic services
Political unrest continued intercommunal violence and IDP and refugee pressure, climate and disease hazards, and a general economic feeble and uncertain environment all put pressure on an already weak basic services infrastructure. Availability of medicines, and effective distribution of drugs and medicines to clinics and hospitals is a major challenge. Water, sanitation, education, and protection infrastructure and services are similarly weak and worsening.
Given these factors, the health and wellbeing of the population could further deteriorate in the shortterm. As recent political events might divert attention away from much needed solutions and reduce the urgency to invest in the development sector, reliance on humanitarian assistance is likely to increase.
Humanitarian assistance continued across Sudan. As of 31 December 2021, over 8.7 million people were reached with some form of assistance. About 5.3 million people received food assistance and 2.8 million people were reached with livelihoods support. 5.4 million people received basic health services, while more than 1.3 million people received access to safe water. Over 490,000 people gained access to sanitation facilities and 2.5 million people reached with hygiene activities. About 280,000 children were treated for severe acute malnutrition. The $1.9 billion Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan for 2021 was funded with $715.8 million, or 37 per cent of requirements.
By the end of 2021, the SHF accounted for approximately 12 per cent of the total Sudan HRP funding (excluding food).
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.