UNICEF supports evacuation of 253 vulnerable babies and children from Madani battle lines

04 January 2024

On 15 December 2023, fighting between the two warring parties expanded to Aj Jazirah state, Sudan, putting at risk the lives and well-being of millions of children and families residing in the state, many of whom had already fled the fighting in Khartoum since war broke out in April 2023.

Soon after the outbreak of fighting in Madani, Aj Jazirah state, the Ministry of Social Welfare and Development (MoSWD) submitted a formal request to UNICEF to assist in the evacuation of 253 children without parental care residing in two centres in Madani, along with 50 caretakers and medical personnel. These two centres housed many of the children from the former Mygoma orphanage, who were evacuated in June 2023 from Khartoum.

In response to this request from MoSWD and in accordance with the lists that were provided, on 26 December 2023 UNICEF evacuated the 253 children and 50 caretakers and medical personnel.  Evacuation of civilians in active armed conflict is not normally something that falls in UNICEF’s core mandate, however, given the absence of the mandated organizations and the exceptional circumstances, UNICEF agreed to coordinate with the warring parties to ensure safe passage of the children and caretakers to a safer area out of harms way, under the overall care and responsibility of the MoSWD, together with partners. Rules of engagement were agreed, from the number and markings of buses, to the number of children and adults who would travel. Clear instructions were given by both warring parties that only authorized children and caretakers would be allowed through RSF and SAF checkpoints. The evacuation occurred at a time when there was active shelling some kilometers from Madani, and a build up of armed personnel on both sides. Strict adherence to instructions was critical for a successful operation.

While 253 children are now out of harm’s way, we recognize that hundreds of thousands of children in Gezira state are vulnerable to ongoing violence and war, including children in other centres and institutions that are under the accountability of MoSWD. UNICEF continues to work with local NGOs, institutions and authorities to advocate for the protection of children and their caregivers and for armed groups to allow safe movement of families, children and caretakers should they also choose to leave the state. UNICEF continues to make every effort to access children where there is active fighting to save lives, protect health and ensure respect for human rights, based on needs and without discrimination.

All children have the right to grow up in an environment that supports their physical, psychological, social and emotional development. UNICEF continues to work with government institutions and partners to strengthen child protection systems and support children’s transition from institutional care to community- and family-based alternative care. Since the onset of the war in April, almost 100 orphaned and abandoned children have been placed in family care. This continues to be a priority for UNICEF and our partners going forward to ensure they are protected and in the best possible environment to survive and thrive.

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Ruben Vellenga
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UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child and is committed to the children of Sudan. We never give up on finding solutions that provide immediate help to save the lives of children or provide durable support so that those children grow up with dignity, health and an education.  

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/sudan/ 

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