Local Sudanese Organizations are Best Equipped to Deliver Aid To Most Needy

As a Sudanese National living in the United States, but was born and raised, growing up in the outskirts of North Kordofan, Sennar, and Nyala before finally settling in Khartoum, my heart is heavy, filled with grief and suffering, witnessing and watching the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan unfold. This past April marked one year since the start of the war. This devastating conflict is exacerbated by political instability and economic despair, leaving its permanent mark on the health and well-being of an entire nation.

This humanitarian crisis is unparalleled and considered one of the world’s worst in recent history. Over half the population – 25 million people need assistance, and 14 million of those people are children. Before the war, Sudan was a country with an already fragile health system, and this crisis has pushed it way beyond its limits. The destruction of hospitals and lack of humanitarian aid is leaving millions with inadequate access to medical care, with 70-80 % of facilities shut down or partly functioning. As a practicing physician in the United States, I am deeply concerned about tens of millions of my fellow citizens in Sudan.

Since the beginning of the war, through the Sudanese American Physician Association (SAPA), I have been working closely with our colleagues on the ground in various areas in Sudan. In July 2023, we provided personnel support, medicine, and full operational assistance, primarily caring for children and women. So far, we have delivered care to over 58,000 patients and over 5,000 children under the age of five, with more than 2,000 essential vaccinations delivered. Our deep understanding of the local social and cultural dynamics and the extensive presence of our network and personnel on the ground have made effective aid delivery successful and impactful in saving lives.

A similar success in effective aid delivery within the medical community has taken place in food relief efforts. Hadhreen, an organization started by Sudanese youth, addresses hunger by supporting 52 kitchens and feeding more than 9,000 families daily. During their 2024 “Ramadan in Sudan” initiative, Hadhreen served 1,3330,758 meals throughout the country and distributed hundreds of bags of food in refugee camps in Chad and Egypt. Hadhreen, successfully and efficiently helps the greatest number of people with their limited resources because they, like SAPA, know what works best on the ground.

The uniqueness of being Sudanese and having practiced medicine in Sudan before pursuing additional training in the United States gives me and my colleagues in SAPA a perspective that others just do not have. We know first-hand the conditions we worked in, what is actually needed, and what kind of interventions will have long-lasting positive effects. This insight is paramount for a culturally sensitive response that addresses the specific needs of the affected communities throughout Sudan. We understand the external and internal factors that influence aid delivery. The gap is enormous, and the call to action cannot be overstated; of the estimated $2.7 billion needed for humanitarian aid, only 5% has been delivered. 

Currently, no Sudanese-based organization is directly receiving aid. The aid comes from other larger international relief organizations and eventually gets funneled to the suffering Sudanese people on the ground. A recent report from OXFAM concluded that this current system is pushed to the max and is not working.

The $2 billion commitment recently made in humanitarian aid at the Paris ministerial conference in April is promising. However, we must ensure this aid is delivered effectively and directly to beneficiaries. Rising overhead costs negatively impact aid distribution, and bureaucratic hurdles make it hard for help to reach those in need swiftly. Allocating aid directly to Sudanese organizations bypasses systemic delays and restraints and enhances critical aid delivery. Sudan is already in crisis. The longer we wait, the more an already horrific and deadly situation gets worse.