Ali in a displacement gathering site in Wadi Halfa, his new home for an unknown time. Photo: IOM Sudan/Noory Taha

Northern Sudan/White Nile, Sudan – “I sleep on a rented bed in a park. There are times when I do not have enough money to eat and have to ask for food at restaurants,” says Ali, one of the 9 million people displaced within Sudan since the conflict broke out in April 2023.

Ali, uprooted from his home in Omdurman, Khartoum, today lives in a displacement gathering site in Wadi Halfa, a small town nestled on the banks of Lake Nubia in Northern Sudan – a state currently hosting over 402,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

A park in Wadi Halfa, a border town in Northern Sudan, transformed into a displacement gathering site for newly displaced Sudanese. Photo: IOM Sudan/Noory Taha

With many hoping to cross into Egypt to find safety, some find themselves in limbo, their wait stretching into agonizing months. Each passing day is a constant reminder of the life Ali has left behind and a harrowing journey he had to embark on several months ago.

“After my uncle was killed, I knew I had to leave. I grabbed what I could and boarded the bus. I went from Omdurman, to Shendi, to Dongola and after days finally made it to Wadi Halfa. It was a long journey, and I was extremely sick,” Ali recalls.

Arriving in Wadi Halfa, Ali felt a mix of relief and uncertainty: unemployed and grappling with a medical condition, Ali faced challenges in securing employment. Multiple chronic illnesses, coupled with two surgeries have left him unable to lift heavy objects, further complicating his job search. On top of it, the ongoing conflict has deprived him of access to essential health-care services and vital medication.

Unable to afford treatment, Ali found himself growing sicker day by day until his path crossed with the mobile health team from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). He received medical consultation and cash to cover prescribed medication and laboratory tests as part of the assistance provided within the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions (COMPASS) initiative funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. 

Ali benefited from IOM’s health-care services, receiving a medical consultation and cash support to purchase medication he depends on. Photo: IOM Sudan/Noory Taha

Omnia, a 25-year-old mother of two toddler boys, comes from Khartoum. Like others, she fled the clashes and attacks to relative safety, ending up in White Nile state, settling down in a displacement gathering site similar to the one where Ali lives.

Luckily, Omnia’s journey was relatively smooth, however, it is the new living conditions and environment that she had to adjust to.

“My life before the war was beautiful but then everything turned upside down, and we ended up here. One of the biggest challenges for me and my family is infections and diseases. My two sons are sick; so am I,” says Omnia.

In addition to emergency health-care assistance and cash support to address health needs, IOM runs mobile clinics in three states, including White Nile, to provide affected communities with much-needed primary health-care support thanks to the United Nations Central European Humanitarian Fund (UN CERF).

Daily operations of a mobile clinic in White Nile state. IOM-supported mobile clinics are a lifeline for conflict-displaced people with medical needs. Photo: IOM Sudan/Noory Taha

“My two sons became very ill, and if it were not for the medical services we received at this mobile clinic, the suffering would be unbearable and life would have been very difficult,” Omnia says in relief.

About 65 per cent of the population in Sudan lack access to health care and between 70-80 per cent of hospitals in conflict-affected areas are no longer functional, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Outbreaks of cholera, dengue, measles, and malaria have been reported across Sudan. Displacement gathering sites, such as the ones in Northern or White Nile states, are at a higher risk due to overcrowding and lack of access to primary health care.

“In these displacement sites there are people who suffer life-threatening medical conditions, complex chronic illnesses, people with cancer and non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. All of them need immediate medical attention,” says Amna Khairy – one of the medical doctors working with IOM in Northern state.

“It’s heartbreaking to see how they are suffering, left without any access to health-care services or medication that is critical for them to keep their condition stable.”

To help people like Ali and Omnia, IOM is scaling up its health response, providing integrated health, nutrition, mental health and psychosocial support, protection, and gender-based violence response.

To date, IOM has provided primary health services and specialized health care to over 73,000 people and nutrition screenings of over 4,400 people in IDP and refugee camps and gathering sites, points of entry and key migration routes, and host communities since the conflict began. The assistance is provided through eight static health facilities, four mobile clinics, two migrant resource and response centres (MRRCs), and a migration health assessment centre in Aj Jazirah, Blue Nile, Gedaref, Kassala, Northern, Red Sea and White Nile states as well as Northern Abyei PCA North.

Written by Olga Borzenkova, Communications Officer, and Lisa George, National Media and Communications Officer, IOM Sudan

SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions