Through the eyes of a child
11-year-old Ali shares how the conflict in Sudan has upended his life
Ali, 11, remembers the day, in mid-April, that the world around him started to change. It began just like any other day at his home in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. “I woke up and I started watching the TV,” he says. But outside in the distance, he could already hear the start of violent clashes.
As the days went by, those once distant sounds started to sound frighteningly close. Soon, they had arrived at his family’s door.
“The fighting came to our street. I heard loud bangs,” Ali says.
The noise was terrifying for Ali’s family. And relentless. “It was above our head,” Ali’s father, Elfateh, says. “All types of weapons. Small, medium, and large planes. We reached a point where we were on the floor under our beds for three or four hours per day.”
Ali’s sister, Areej, says that as the fighting drew nearer, the family started to sleep on the floor, away from the windows. “The sounds shook our house. It was so very close.”
Eventually, their home lost water and electricity.
“We had to get out,” Areej says.
At first, the family sought shelter at a relative’s house in nearby Al-Kadaro (Bahri). But the fighting quickly reached there, too, forcing the family to move again.
“I left my school and my home and my friends,” Ali says. “I left a lot of things behind.”
A tragically familiar story
Ali is far from alone – thousands of children and their families have similar stories to tell as ongoing violence has forced them to seek safety inside and outside Sudan. Since the conflict erupted in April 2023, countless children have been deprived of the safe spaces they once enjoyed – their schools, their communities, their homes.
During these frightening times, support networks like friends and family take on an even more critical role. For now, Ali has been separated from his friends, and he says he worries about them. But he adds that he’s glad he has been able to stay in touch, at least a little.
“I contacted one of my friends,” Ali says. “He told me he stopped by to wish me a Happy Eid, but that he couldn’t find me. I told him I’m in Madani now.”
A difficult journey
Madani a town in Al-Jazirah state, east-central Sudan, has been relatively calm and safe for those fleeing conflict in Khartoum and other areas. As a result, it is now home to thousands of internally displaced persons. But the journey to the town was a harrowing one for Ali and his family as their route took them past burnt out cars, buildings and even the bodies of people who had been killed in the violence.
“The journey was difficult. We also had to go through some checkpoints,” Ali says.
Today, Ali and his family are safe and settled in their new home.
UNICEF is on the ground in places such as Madani, addressing the urgent needs of displaced persons including providing psychosocial support to children and ensuring delivery of critical services benefiting communities.
But as the days turn into weeks as the fighting continues, their future remains uncertain. Elfateh worries that the situation in country won’t be the same again, even when the fighting stops.
“After these events, I see a very dark future. This isn’t what I was expecting for my children,” he says.
Still, Ali remains optimistic that things will get better if the country can make it through the current hardships. “I want to tell the Sudanese people to be patient,” he says.