Love-Lis Liljeström works for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Sudan. After more than a year of war, she hopes that the situation in Sudan and the widespread humanitarian crisis will receive more attention both in Sweden and globally. Photo (left): Tosco Diaz/Flickr. Photo (right): Love-Lis Liljeström.


A year of war in Sudan: "A crisis that receives too little international attention"

On April 15 this year, it was one year since the war in Sudan broke out. Several UN employees believe that the crisis in Sudan is a forgotten conflict, which is overshadowed by other conflicts in the world. Now the UN is warning that a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sudan due to the lack of attention from the outside world.  

- After a year of war, my hope is that the suffering in Sudan is given more attention, so that more aid can reach those in need and the foundations can be laid for a peaceful future, says Love-Lis Liljeström, program manager at UNDP in Sudan 

A year after the war began, Sudan has suffered one of the the worst humanitarian crises in the world.  

Now the UN is warning because the situation has developed into a humanitarian tragedy due to the lack of international attention the crisis is receiving.  

Love-Lis Liljeström works at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) where she coordinates, monitors and analyzes activities within the organization's crisis response. Having worked in Sudan since the summer of 2022, she and her colleagues were forced to evacuate from Khartoum when war broke out last year. This changed the way they worked. For example, UNDP invested in solar-powered water pumps in several villages that previously depended on electricity for water supply.  

- Then people on the run could have access to water at all hours of the day and not just when there was electricity, says Love-Lis Liljeström. 

She believes that such investments have led to less internal conflicts in societies where resources are scarce. 

- For me personally, it has been unique to see how environmental development initiatives and other environmentally friendly solutions can also have a peace-promoting effect, says Love-Lis Liljeström. 

Battles between army and military group

The April 15, 2023 fighting broke out between the Sudanese Army (SAF) and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. The fighting in the country began after weeks of tension between the actors. The prelude to the conflict was negotiations on a reorganization of the security forces for a future transitional government. SAF and RSF, who in October 2021 worked together to overthrow the Sudanese government, now stood against each other. 

But even before the ongoing conflict was fought Sudan with violence and refugee flows. There were one million refugees in the country, most of whom came from South Sudan, but also from Ethiopia due to the conflict in Tigray.  

The country was also characterized by divisions between the civilian population and the political regime. In August 2018 announced former President Omar Al-Bashir, who has been in power since 1989, that he would run for a third term, which would involve amending Sudan's constitution. In December 2018, mass protests erupted against rising food and fuel prices, leading hundreds of thousands of civil and political organizations in the country to join together to form the non-violent resistance movement, The Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC).  

In response to the protests, the government cracked down on violence and shut down the internet, increasing popular discontent and helping the movement grow. It was these actions, along with earlier efforts by Sudanese peacebuilding organizations, that laid the foundation for one of the strongest social movements in the country in modern times, according to a report by Freedom House.  

Love-Lis Liljeström, who managed to live in Sudan for a little less than a year before the war broke out, confirms that commitment to Sudan's future was enormous among the civilian population.  

- When I came to Khartoum, I was met by an active women's movement and youth-led demonstrations every week. There was a strong will and faith in the future for a peaceful and democratic Sudan, she says. 

She lights up when she talks about the time before the fighting broke out.  

- I remember the fantastic city, where the blue and white Nile meet. Sudan offers an incredible culture that you quickly learn to love. 

Millions of people displaced in Sudan – a forgotten humanitarian crisis

After the war started, Love-Lis Liljeström has worked both in the field in Sudan and from the UNDP regional office in the Jordanian capital Amman. In Sudan, she has met some of the above 8,2 million refugees who had to leave their homes since April 2023. Right now, more than six million people are displaced within the country – which is the largest number of internally displaced people in the world.  

In addition to a record high number of people on the run in the country is over half of the population in Sudan, that is 25 million people, in need of humanitarian aid. Five million people suffer from acute food shortage and the number of food insecure people, who do not have enough food for the day, amounts to 18 million. The healthcare system in the country is close to collapse and basic community services such as shops, banks and markets have been damaged or looted. This puts Sudan on top RESCUE Emergency Watchlist – a report on the countries most at risk of a worsening humanitarian crisis in 2024.  

- The war's terrible consequences for the civilian population means, among other things, that millions of children no longer have access to education, which I consider to be a major development problem, notes Love-Lis Liljeström. 

UN humanitarian chief Commenting on the lack of international attention and media coverage of Sudan, Martin Griffiths recently said:  

- It is very, very difficult to get attention for Sudan. The lack of access for us is significant.  

Even Fredrik Svensson, who works with vulnerability analysis and hunger mapping at the UN food program WFP, agrees.   

- The crisis in Sudan has generally been a forgotten conflict. The spotlight has been on other conflict areas in the world, he says Today's news.   

Love-Lis Liljeström agrees that Sudan receives too little international attention.  

- It is good that other wars and crises are noticed, but that is important to Sudan also finns on the agenda. On April 15, it was one year since the war broke out and my hope is that it will create discussions in the international community, says Love-Lis Liljeström.   

She hopes for three things for Sudan's future.  

- A temporary ceasefire enables aid organizations to enter the most urgent areas. Then, of course, I hope for a long-term ceasefire and for peace processes to start. There is also a need for more money and aid to Sudan, says Love-Lis Liljeström. 

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