The current conflict in Sudan, with its rapid escalation and large-scale violence, stands out among recent crises for the severity of its humanitarian impact. Despite being overshadowed on the international stage by the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, Sudan is the scene of the world's fastest growing displacement crisis, mass atrocities, and dire humanitarian needs. The longstanding humanitarian presence in the country was completely disrupted by the sudden escalation of violence in April 2023, with national aid workers displaced, offices and facilities looted, and international staff evacuated. The coordinated aid response has since struggled to scale up sufficiently due to ongoing insecurity, logistical obstacles, political interference, and stringent constraints imposed by parties to the conflict, including denial of visas for staff and restrictions on transporting aid supplies.
Humanitarians’ efforts to push back against the constraints have so far failed to gain traction, in part because of insufficient staff in coordination roles and their absence at state levels. Faced with these obstacles, compounded by insufficient funding and lack of political pressure on the warring parties to respect international humanitarian law to facilitate access, the humanitarian response has reached only a small fraction of people in need. A highly localised, volunteer-driven response has emerged in the form of emergency response rooms (ERRs) and other community initiatives. These voluntary, grassroots efforts are overstretched, increasingly exhausted, and lack resources. While they cannot substitute for the large-scale and sustained levels of assistance that are needed, they are playing a vital complementary role in supporting people to meet basic needs, access services, and seek safety—and they need support to continue.