More than 40 children die in Central Darfur camps as fighting escalates

Zalingei, Camp de Hassa Hissa pour personnes déplacées. Vue générale. Zalingei, Hassa Hissa camp for displaced people. General view.

The Hasaheisa camp for the displaced in 2005 (File photo: Olav Saltbones / ICRC)

Ongoing hostilities between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are taking a heavy toll on the lives of people in Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur. Displaced people are especially vulnerable, with child fatalities reported in several camps. The RSF is detaining people suspected of supporting the army.

Sheikh Abdelrazeg Yousef, leader of the Hamidiya camp for displaced people, told Radio Dabanga that the renewed clashes in Zalingei last week, is exacerbating an already dire situation.

On Thursday, the RSF besieged the Hasaheisa camp, causing severe food and water shortages.

“There is an alarming increase in beggars,” Yousef said. He also reported a significant increase in deaths because of medicine scarcity and the spread of diseases such as malaria, typhoid, and jaundice”.

Since end July, the number of child deaths in Hamidiya camp in Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur, reached 43, he said. Deaths were reported in the Hasaheisa and Khamsa Dagayeg camps as well.

The sheikh further said that 32 people have been killed in the Khamsa Dagayeg camp since August 8, due to ongoing shelling between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Yousef expressed grave concerns about the precarious security situation.

Robbers continue to plague the area between the Khamees market and the Hamidiya camp, he said, citing incidents such as the killing of two people and the theft of 18 donkey carts in the vicinity of Hamidiya camp last week.

“Cows belonging to butchers near El Hasaheisa camp were stolen, and food supplies were plundered in Khor Torni.”

Activist Abdellatif Ishag told Radio Dabanga that 42 civilians have been killed in Zalingei since August 8. About 140 others sustained injuries due to continued shelling.

The ongoing deterioration of the security situation in Zalingei and surrounding areas, which remain mainly under control of the RSF and affiliated militant Arab tribesmen, is of grave concern to Ishag. He warned about “a rise in ethnically motivated targeting”.

Increased detentions

He further pointed to “a disturbing new trend”: RSF soldiers violently detain residents of Zalingei and the surrounding camps, accusing them of supporting the SAF. “This has forced 1,100 people from the Hasaheisa and Dardag neighbourhoods in Zalingei to seek refuge in the Hamidiya camp.”

“Since early August, at least 120 people have been detained,” he said.  

According to Sheikh Yousef, at least 22 people from El Hasaheisa and Hamidiya camps are being held in RSF detention centres since August 4, without specifying the reasons behind their incarceration.


Adeeb Abdelrahman, former governor of Central Darfur, has raised the alarm about widespread hunger and malnutrition in Central and West Darfur.

He cited a significant decline in cultivated areas in the area, “which dropped by 10 per cent due to the ravages of war, pest infestations, and insufficient rainfall”.

As for Zalingei, he noted that most parts of the city resemble a ghost town. “Communication has been severed for four months in Zalingei since late May, which led to the city’s complete isolation and a deepening humanitarian crisis,” he said. “Moreover, the lack of cash liquidity has led to barter systems and increased crime rates.”

The remaining residents are also grappling with a severe lack of drinking water, as the water supply network remains inactive. “The remaining residents are forced to fetch water using traditional means, such as donkeys.”

Regarding the healthcare situation, Abdelrahman said that the Zalingei Teaching Hospital operates at only three per cent of its maximum capacity due to the shortage of medical staff, medicines, and ongoing security concerns.

“Health insurance centres in El Hamidiya and Khamsa Dagayeg camps continue to operate through grassroots efforts, with clinics and health centres established in the housing blocks and mosques,” he explained.

The former governor commended the various initiatives by activists in Zalingei. “The humanitarian need, however, is substantial, and cannot be adequately addressed without the intervention of UN agencies and international organisations. There are 36 camps for displaced people in Central Darfur and the number of displaced people in the state now reached 772,715,” he said, and urged the distribution of aid sent through Chad.