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Cairo, Egypt – “I was pinned down in my house for 15 days due to the constant fighting. My apartment was located between the opposing armies. There was no way to escape,” recalls Mohammed of the early days of the conflict.
“I knew a lot of people who were shot or had their arms and legs blown apart from explosions. It was so frightening.”
Mohammed was among the thousands of Sudanese who fled their country following the start of the conflict which erupted in April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Born and raised in the nation’s capital, Khartoum, he lived most of his life in relative peace.
The scale and scope of the fighting caught many civilians by surprise. “I remembered there was a war in Darfur back when I was a child, but I didn’t think such a thing could happen in the capital,” he says.
“Home was nice, it was such a beautiful place. I thought things were finally moving forward in Sudan,” says Mohammed when thinking about life prior to the outbreak of violence.
When a ceasefire was declared back in May, Mohammed and his parents seized the chance to escape the capital. With heavy hearts, they boarded a bus bound for Egypt, leaving behind their homeland.
“It was a hard journey it took two long days, and along the way I witnessed unimaginable horrors, homes being shot at or burned,” says Mohammed.
The journey was very dangerous. Several cars were burned along the way while their bus at one point narrowly missed gun fire. The road to Egypt contained several checkpoints, subjecting all passengers to humiliating searches.
“At one checkpoint, we were asked to hand over all our money and belongings, and were left with nothing,” he says. By the time they reached the Egyptian border in late July, Mohammed spent another three days collecting enough money to pay the transportation cost to make his way across the border.
Prior to the conflict, Mohammed used to own an electronics store that sold mobile phones, laptops and other electronics. However, the crisis had taken a devastating toll, leaving his business in ruins and his livelihood shattered. Now in a new country, Mohammed had to start a new chapter, rebuilding his life after having lost everything.
“It’s difficult to lose everything but I still choose to have hope. I wish to return home when the war ends,” he says. Originally from Northern Darfur, he lived in Sudan’s capital in Khartoum. While living in Khartoum, his family comes from and lives in Al Fashir in Northern Darfur.
At the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Office in Cairo, Mohammed registered for assistance to help him rebuild his life while staying in Egypt – one of the largest host countries, with an estimated 415,000 people arriving in the country from Sudan since mid-April.
However, he remains deeply concerned for his family that remains in Al-Fashir, where fighting has effectively trapped them with no safe passage out. “What’s the point of being safe if your family is not safe?” Mohammed asks.
Sara, a Sudanese mother of four, was very familiar with the war that happened in Darfur in the early 2000s, a horrific conflict that ravaged Sudan’s Darfur region and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people as well as the displacement of millions. Fortunately for her, the conflict never reached the capital, Khartoum, where she lived with her husband.
This all changed for her when fighting broke out across the country in April.
“I went to bed on a normal night and woke up to war.”
On the morning of 15 April, Sara woke up to the sounds of gunshots near her home. At first, she had hoped that the fighting would only last a few days, but it continued, trapping her and her family at home. “Armed men would go from neighbourhood to neighbourhood searching homes, raping women, and harassing the men. It was horrible.”
Unable to escape, Sara did her best to calm her children while taking shelter at home. “The loud bombs would scare them and whenever a plane would fly by, my youngest would think this would be the one to finally end the war. He really wanted to believe anything could put an end to all of this.”
In early May, she found her chance to escape Khartoum during a ceasefire and boarded a bus to Egypt with her family. Today, she is safe in Egypt and has registered for assistance from IOM’s office in Cairo, worried for her children’s future.
“I want Sudan to become peaceful again.”
The harrowing experiences of Mohammed and Sara are similar to those of more than 1.7 million people who have fled the country to neighbouring countries to Chad, South Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, and Libya.
IOM has been at the forefront of the response since the onset of the crisis, providing life-saving assistance to over 1 million people in Sudan and neighbouring countries through the delivery of critical health, protection, water, sanitation, hygiene and shelter interventions.
Since April, more than 10 million people have fled their homes, taking refuge inside and outside the country. The people of Sudan urgently need an immediate ceasefire. Aid must reach the millions in need. People must be able to access food, fuel, medicines and other critical supplies and services. People trying to flee, and access assistance should be able to do so safely. Every moment of continued violence puts more lives at risk.
This story was written by Muse Mohammed with the support of Maryam Elgiziry, Lisa George and Salma Okasha.