Darfur network reports ‘alarming humanitarian situation’ in El Fasher

Women set up a shelter in ZamZam camp for the displaced in North Darfur (File photo: Hamid Abdulsalam / UNAMID)

The area of El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, is witnessing “an intricate and dire humanitarian crisis as a violent conflict tightly grips the region,” the Darfur Network for Human Rights (DNHR) said in a report on Thursday. The majority of the residents of the city and surrounding camps for the displaced “face the harsh reality of inadequate access to food, leading to severe malnutrition”.

El Fasher, with a population of 2,827,155 people, “is grappling with an acute shortage of food, plunging the community into a state of dire need. The situation is exacerbated by soaring food prices, making essential commodities increasingly unaffordable for the majority of the population, the Kampala-based DNHR reports.

Following the eruption of battles between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Khartoum on April 15 last year, fighting between the two parties in El Fasher in end April “resulted in SAF eventual victory, prompting RSF’s retreat to El Malha and Abu Shouk camps” northeast of the city.

The “relentless shelling of RSF-occupied areas by SAF triggered widespread civilian displacement” the network says. “Leaders from the community, legal experts, and activists, guided by Governor Nimir Abdelrahman, intervened to broker a temporary ceasefire. However, renewed hostilities on April 19 resulted in further civilian casualties, prompting a compromise to maintain peace” at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, from April 20 to May 12.

Following this period, the North Darfur capital witnessed fighting again. The RSF seized control of the eastern parts of the city, while the SAF fortified their hold over the western parts. Fighting continued on and off in the following months.

Security conditions began to deteriorate rapidly in El Fasher in late October as the RSF intensified pressure on the four other Darfur state capitals. The RSF in the east and northeast of El Fasher began wreaking havoc, until the situation exploded, and violent clashes erupted again between the two parties on October 26.

The fighting led to mass displacement. An estimated 85 per cent of the population left the northern neighbourhoods, either leaving for safer areas in the south of El Fasher or fleeing to Mellit or even Libya, the Sudan Transparency and Policy Tracker (STPT) reported in November.

Early this month, renewed SAF-RSF battles were reported from the city, which again prompting fears that rebel combatants would get involved in the fighting. The RSF taking full control of the city would reportedly also ignite strife between the Arab tribes supporting the RSF, and the Zaghawa tribe, from which most North Darfur rebel fighters hail, and lead to a “catastrophic bloodbath” in the area.

Humanitarian crisis

“This intensified conflict has catalysed a profound humanitarian crisis, amplifying the challenges faced by the already beleaguered population,” the Darfur network states.

“The impact on food prices has been drastic, with the cost of essential items reaching unprecedented levels.” Currently, one malwa (about 2,3 kilogrammes) of grain is priced at around SDG1,500 (US$2.50) and the cost of one litre of cooking oil has surged to approximately SDG1,400 ($2.33), “placing a heavy burden on the financial capacities of the local residents.

“The financial strain inflicted by exorbitant food prices has resulted in a widespread crisis of malnutrition in the region. Only a handful of families, fortunate enough to still possess some financial resources, can afford to meet their nutritional needs. The majority, however, face the harsh reality of inadequate access to food, leading to severe malnutrition.”

“El Mawashi, a small livestock market located in the south of the city, continues to operate, albeit with significant challenges. The market, once a lifeline for residents, is now a testament to the harsh realities faced by the community.”

The healthcare system is grappling with critical shortages, as only two hospitals remain operational. “SAF’s control over one hospital limits civilian access, while the emergency centre in Naivasha camp, operated by Relief International, provides only basic medical aid.”


Adding to the dire situation is the absence of international aid for the displaced people living in the camps of which many have become suburbs of the city over the years, the DNHR states.

North Darfur hosts the second-largest displaced population in the country, with an estimated 528,038 people living in camps. The Zamzam camp, south of El Fasher, is the second-largest camp for displaced people in Darfur*, hosting about 121,000 people according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported on February 5 that that “all emergency thresholds for malnutrition” were reached in Zamzam Camp. The camp “requires an urgent humanitarian response as an estimated one child is dying every two hours. [..]

“Conditions in the camp are atrocious: as well as no healthcare apart from the MSF clinic, there is also no clean water supply. People are drinking either from the swamps or the river, which can cause severe diarrhoea,” MSF stated.


The World Food Programme has allegedly been unable to distribute food since May last year because of the war.

The DNHR also points to the insecurity in El Fasher and surroundings, which “remains a grave and persistent concern, with the civilian population enduring the brunt of escalating violence and lawlessness. The volatile situation extends from the city into the camps, creating an environment of fear and vulnerability for all residents”.

On December 16, a group of RSF soldiers raided the Naivasha camp, shot at the residents, killing three, and robbed the people of their belongings.

Less than two months later, fighting erupted between RSF and SAF soldiers north of the camp. Numerous displaced were injured by the violence.

‘Action needed’

The current situation in El Fasher “demands our immediate attention and collective action. The unfolding events depict a dire humanitarian crisis marked by escalating violence, widespread displacement, and severe suffering among the civilian population. The once-historically significant city is now the epicentre of a conflict that continues to intensify, leaving families torn apart, communities shattered, and lives lost”.

Therefore, “DNHR urgently appeals to the international community and human rights organisations to intervene and address the urgent needs of the affected population in El Fasher. The gravity of the crisis necessitates swift and decisive action to prevent further loss of life and alleviate the suffering of those caught in the crossfire. [..]

“Simultaneously, the protection of civilians must be prioritised through enhanced security measures in conflict zones to curb violence and prevent further civilian casualties. Creating safe humanitarian corridors is essential to facilitate aid delivery and shield vulnerable populations from the devastating impacts of the crisis.

“Diplomatic efforts are pivotal, urging engagement in peaceful resolutions through negotiations and dialogue between conflicting parties. International monitoring and intervention are crucial to uphold international humanitarian law and safeguard the rights of civilians,” the network concludes.

* The Kalma camp near the South Darfur capital of Nyala, with a population of 126,200 people, is the largest camp in the region.