Woman holding baby
Joel Baidebne/ CARE International

Sudan: One year into the war, women and girls bear the brunt of hunger, displacement and violence

Nairobi, Kenya, 11 April 2024 - One year on, the pervasive use of sexual violence as a weapon of war in the conflict in Sudan is laid bare in a new advocacy brief issued today by CARE and some of its partners, Because They Are Women: How the Sudan conflict has created a war on women and girls.

This conflict has had horrific consequences for millions of people. It has devastated every facet of Sudanese society, and its impacts have spilled over to neighboring countries already facing their own complex humanitarian emergencies. The most affected are women and girls. They are disproportionately impacted by hostilities, with a wave of gender-based violence (GBV) sweeping the country. Livelihoods have been devastated, infrastructure including healthcare decimated, and now acute food insecurity and a looming famine.  

We are witnessing a war on women and girls, amidst a terrible wave of violence for the whole country.
Abdirahman Ali, CARE Sudan Country Director

“We are witnessing a war on women and girls, amidst a terrible wave of violence for the whole country,” said Abdirahman Ali, CARE Sudan Country Director. “Even before the most recent conflict, a staggering 3 million women and girls lived in fear of sexual or gender-based violence. That number has now spiked by nearly 60%, with a major increase in the need for GBV services. This alarming statistic exposes the brutal reality of this conflict and the huge burden placed on Sudanese women and girls, especially those forced to flee their homes. The situation is only getting worse with every passing day.” 

As a result of the conflict, women and girls’ vulnerabilities to violence and deprivation have increased. As highlighted in the brief, protection threats have escalated, and access to life-essential services for survivors of sexual violence is significantly reduced.  

Paris conference: a key opportunity to support women in Sudan

Ahead of the International Humanitarian Conference in Paris on April 15th, CARE is urging action from member states and donors to address this humanitarian catastrophe. The brief calls for a united front in prioritizing gender equality and addressing women’s and girls’ specific needs.  Robust efforts to prevent more sexual violence and guarantee access to GBV response services must be made. 

The heightened risks of GBV are everywhere: from homes in conflict areas to overcrowded camps where people have fled for their safety. Reports from the UN highlight the pervasive use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, with instances of trafficking and exploitation widespread. The impact of the conflict on women and girls is further aggravated by unmet sexual and reproductive health needs: the demand for these services has surged from 3.1 million to 6.7 million since April 2023. Only a fraction of those requiring assistance receive adequate support, and neighboring countries face comparable challenges in delivering specialized care to refugee women and girls.

The situation is only getting worse with every passing day.
Abdirahman Ali, CARE Sudan Country Director

Women and girls also make up the majority of the more than 8.5 million forcibly displaced, around 150,000 pregnant women cannot access proper care, with two-thirds of health centers not functioning. 

Displaced women face increased protection and health risks, exacerbated by their caregiving responsibilities and limited access to services. Women on the brink of starvation resort to drastic actions such as engaging in survival sex or forced marriage as detailed in the brief. Of the more than 4.86 million people facing acute hunger in Sudan, 1.2 million are pregnant and breastfeeding women suffering from acute malnutrition.

Bearing the brunt, leading the response

Despite facing these immense challenges, women in Sudan are showing inspiring resilience and courage at the frontline of the humanitarian response in Sudan. They have been delivering vital support and assistance for women, girls, and other vulnerable groups when international organizations have been unable or severely restricted to deliver aid. Despite their heroic efforts, women's organizations in Sudan face greater barriers to receiving funding, support, and participation in decision-making. 

Beyond immediate relief, empowering women and girls through increased funding for survivor-centered GBV services and amplifying their voices in humanitarian response and peacebuilding initiatives will be vital.

Amid the conflict, wrenching displacement, rampant hunger, and the looming threat of famine, women are at the forefront of responding to the crisis.
Abdirahman Ali, CARE Sudan Country Director

"Amid the conflict, wrenching displacement, rampant hunger, and the looming threat of famine, women are at the forefront in responding to the crisis,” Abdirahman stressed. “As doctors, midwives, nurses, aid workers, and volunteers, everyday individuals offer support and relief to those suffering even at the expense of their own lives. Their unwavering dedication is a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit, a beacon that pierces the suffocating darkness. We must urgently support their tireless efforts. Immediate action is imperative to confront the myriad of challenges besieging women and girls in Sudan and neighboring lands." 

For media inquiries, please contact David Mutua, CARE East Central, & Southern Africa Regional Communications Advisor, via: [email protected].

CARE's work in Sudan

  • Since the beginning of the conflict, CARE has reached 66.112 people with nutrition services and 238,000 with Health Services in over 83 health facilities across the country. 
  • CARE’s lifesaving operations are ongoing in: 
  • East and South Darfur – water provision to refugees and host community and Health services, cash assistance 
  • Gedaref – WASH provision for refugees, IDPs, and host community and Health services 
  • Al Gezira – WASH provision to IDPs and host community 
  • Kassala, Khartoum and South Kordofan - Health services, cash assistance 
  • CARE has distributed $558,150 to 11,163 people through cash assistance since the start of the conflict. 

Note to Editors 

  • The Brief has been endorsed by the following organizations in Chad and Sudan: Zenab for Women in Development, United Peace Organization, Global Aid Hand, Nirvana, Raira Organization for Awareness & Development, Young Women Christian Association of South Sudan, Agency for Child Relief Aid.