At least 5 million children at the brink in Darfur as unchecked conflict worsens

In the last seven months of fighting in Sudan, reported cases of children killed and injured in Darfur spiked 450 per cent when compared to all of 2022.

21 November 2023
Two young women enter a white UNICEF tent.
UNICEF/UNI464216/Mohamdeen

NEW YORK, 20 November 2023 – The escalating humanitarian crisis in Sudan over the last seven months has reached a grim milestone in Darfur, where at least 5 million children are facing extreme deprivation of their rights and protection risks due to ongoing conflict.

Since the war broke out on April 15, over 3,130 allegations of severe child rights violations have been reported in the country, with the Darfur region bearing at least half of the cases. This is just the tip of the iceberg, with severe under reporting due to communications blackouts and lack of access.

"Sudan – and Darfur in particular - has become a living hell for millions of children, with thousands being ethnically targeted, killed, injured, abused, and exploited. This must end,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director. “Children continue to suffer new violence, while their parents and grandparents still bear the scars of previous cycles of violence. We cannot allow it to happen yet again. All parties to the conflict must uphold international law and protect children and civilians. Children need peace."

The reported number of severe child rights violations in Darfur represents a spike of 450 per cent when compared to the verified number in all of 2022. Of all killing and maiming incidents reported across Sudan, 51 per cent involve children in Darfur. In addition, 48 per cent of the total reported sexual violence cases in Sudan occur in Darfur. UNICEF continues to receive disturbing reports of child recruitment and use.

In addition to multiple levels of violence, over 1.2 million children under five in the Darfur states are suffering from acute malnutrition, with 218,000 of them facing severe acute malnutrition, its most deadly form. Without urgent treatment and life-saving services, they are at high risk of death.

The recent upsurge in fighting has also led to significant displacement in the region, with 1.7 million new internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur, nearly 40% of the total caseload in the country. Nearly half of them are children. Displaced children face heightened risks for abuse, violence, exploitation, and separation from their caregivers.

Vital services in Darfur, including health care and protection, have crumbled due to hindered access, looting, and lack of financial resources, further exacerbated by attacks on frontline workers. Nurses, teachers, doctors, and social workers have not been paid in months, and critical infrastructure, such as water and sanitation systems and hospitals, have been damaged or depleted.

Amidst the ceaseless conflict, extending far beyond the immediate devastation and loss of life, a generation of children in Darfur is at risk of losing out on their right to education, with almost all the region's 4,000 formal schools closed.

UNICEF, in collaboration with partners, has been delivering lifesaving supplies to Darfur, supporting frontline workers, and maintaining basic infrastructure to provide critical health, nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene, learning, and protection services for 2.2 million children and family members. However, more needs to be done, and UNICEF calls upon the international community to accelerate funding for essential lifesaving and resilience services and to redouble advocacy support for unhindered access.

An immediate humanitarian ceasefire is needed. UNICEF reiterates its call for all parties involved in the conflict to respect international humanitarian and human rights laws, halt the grave violations of children’s rights, unfettered access and removal of bureaucratic impediments which limit the speed and scale required to reach the millions of vulnerable children and families across Sudan

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Correction: A previous version of the press release contained a calculation error on the current increase in child rights violations since 2022. The spike has been corrected from 550 per cent to 450 per cent

Media contacts

Ammar Ammar
Regional Chief of Advocacy and Communication
UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office
Tel: 00962791837388
Samreen Abuidris
UNICEF Sudan
Tel: 0097156385167600

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