Go to main content

Sudan: The war after the war

The widespread use of explosive weapons in Sudan continues to kill an untold number of civilians and destroy critical infrastructure. The dangers are immediate and longer-term.

Posted on 04 Apr 2024

Today we commemorate the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action and draw attention to the deadly scourge of land mines and other explosive remnants of war. On this day, few places are as in need of attention as Sudan.

April 15th will mark one year since the start of a shameful conflict in which heavy shelling and airstrikes have ravaged large swathes of the country, littered populated areas with unexploded ordnance and created the world’s largest internal displacement crisis. There are now more than nine million people displaced within Sudan, more than 6.5 million of whom have been uprooted by the current conflict.

Almost two million people have fled the country.

The use of explosive weapons in populated areas has brought about destruction unparalleled in Sudan’s history since independence. After nearly a year of fighting, areas of Khartoum, Omdurman, Bahri, Nyala, El Fasher, El Obeid and other cities are rubble. Critical infrastructure—including water treatment plants, power stations and health care facilities—have been damaged or destroyed. Residential areas have been flattened in and around Khartoum and in parts of Darfur and the Kordofan region.

Between April 15, 2023 and March 22, 2024, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project documented 744 air or drone strikes and 754 incidents of shelling, artillery or missile attack. Civilians are caught in the crossfire. In the last three months alone, shelling and airstrikes have killed or injured civilians in at least half of Sudan’s 18 states.

There appears to be no area off limits to fighting. It is happening around military sites and government offices, it is happening around markets and hospitals, and it is happening in neighbourhoods. There is little respect for the international humanitarian law principles of distinction, precaution or proportionality

/  Ziggy Garewal, DRC Country Director in Sudan

Beyond the immediate harm caused by explosive weapons, areas of Sudan are now strewn with bombs, shells, mortars or rockets that failed to explode on impact or were abandoned by parties to the conflict. These pose continuing danger. In mid-February, in two incidents in South Kordofan state, six children were killed and ten were injured when unexploded ordnance they were playing with detonated. Civilians will continue to be harmed as the conflict goes on and after it has ended.

Unexploded ordnance contamination is widespread, particularly in Khartoum, Darfur and the Kordofan states. Explosive remnants are buried under rubble, spread among residential and public buildings, and scattered along roads.

Too few fully understand the danger. Because of insecurity and restrictions on humanitarian access, a mere 59,000 people have been reached by risk education programmes since the beginning of 2023. There is urgent need to scale up risk education, victims’ assistance services, survey and mapping of unexploded and abandoned ordnance, and ordnance disposal. This requires greater access to affected communities, more mobile survey, education and disposal teams, and more funding.

The removal of ordnance in many areas will be a prerequisite to the safe return of people displaced by the conflict. And clearance operations in populated areas are complex and costly, requiring painstaking searches of structures and—in many cases—specialized equipment.

Ordnance contamination will be an enormous challenge to rebuilding Sudan. It will be the war after the war

/  Ziggy Garewal, DRC Country Director in Sudan


Ziggy Garewal | DRC Country Director in Sudan | [email protected]

04 Apr 2024
From Struggle to Strength: The inspiring story of Farhiya M…
04 Apr 2024
On Mine Awareness Day, reflections on progress and challenge…
Read more about Sudan