Analysis of the context, crisis and needs
The continuing political transition has opened opportunities for peacebuilding and international engagement. However, humanitarian needs have continued to rise, driven by an economic crisis, COVID-19, record flooding levels, localized conflict and disease outbreaks.
During 2020, there has been some progress towards addressing the economic crisis. An international conference secured pledges of financial support, including for a cash-transfer programme; the IMF began a programme to support economic reforms; and the United States Government announced the intention to remove Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List, an impediment to securing debt relief and international finance. However, this support is not yet sufficient to allow for economic reforms while mitigating the impact on vulnerable people. The economy has continued to deteriorate, exacerbated by the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19, with rising inflation, fuel and medicine shortages, and soaring food prices.
Conflict remains lower than the levels of 2016 and earlier. In 2020, the Government reached a peace agreement with several armed groups in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan (the Two Areas), though two key groups who control certain parts of the country have not yet signed this agreement. Still, several incidents of violence in Darfur, South Kordofan and eastern Sudan close to 100,000 people. Protection concerns remain a core driver of humanitarian needs in the country. While the peace process may open opportunities for durable solutions, these are yet to be found. Millions of people continue to live in protracted displacement inside and outside the country as refugees.
Military escalation that started on 3 November in Ethiopia (Tigray region) resulted in a refugee influx into East Sudan. As at 22 November 40,277 Ethiopian refugees have crossed the border into Sudan, up from 146 individuals on 9 November. Humanitarian partners, under the leadership of UNHCR, are planning to respond to 100,000 arrivals from Ethiopia over six months and developing a contingency plan for 200,000 for the same period.
Renewed outbreaks of malaria, polio, chikungunya and viral hemorrhagic fever continue. A rise in the number of COVID-19 infections is putting additional pressure on an already weak health system. 2020 also saw the worst episode of flooding in decades, affecting nearly 900,000 people, damaging houses, and causing losses of livelihoods and agricultural production.
Projected situation in 2021 and beyond
A total of 13.4 million people (over a quarter of the population) are projected to need humanitarian assistance in 2021. This represents a one-third increase from 2020 and the highest level in a decade. About 7.3 million people will need emergency assistance for life-threatening needs, while 13 million people will need humanitarian services because living standards are so low. The highest needs include health, water and sanitation, and food security. A total of 7.8 million of people in need are women and girls. Particularly vulnerable groups include 2.5 million IDPs and 1.1 million refugees, mostly from South Sudan. Just over half of people in need are in the conflict-affected states of Darfur and the Two Areas, which have the highest rates of food insecurity. But the largest increases in people in need have been in the east and the center, driven by the economic crisis. Protection concerns will remain prominent, with a higher impact on the most vulnerable people.
Drivers of need are likely to persist into 2021. Gaining access to debt relief and IFI financing will take time. Economic reform efforts remain at risk, as donor support is not yet at the level to mitigate potentially painful impacts on the population. The economic situation is likely to limit improvements to health systems, with significant disease outbreaks likely to continue as progress addressing protracted displacement will require significant investment in development and services. Significant flooding is likely to reoccur, if not at 2020 levels.
Beyond 2021, the evolution of needs will depend on the economic crisis, the stability of the political transition, the peace process, and international economic and development support. The Juba Peace has re-set the clock on the transition – to January 2024 – with handover from the military in July 2022. It allows its signatories to run for office in the future and gives them a place in the executive. Significant humanitarian needs are likely to persist in the medium term.
Response priorities in 2021
As needs have increased, humanitarian organizations have scaled up assistance despite operational challenges posed by COVID-19 and the economic crisis. But funding gaps remain. Improvements in humanitarian access under the civilian transitional Government – including to areas under the control of non-State armed groups – have facilitated aid delivery. While funding for humanitarian operations in 2020 reached the highest level since 2011, it did not keep pace with the growth in needs, resulting in a larger funding gap than in 2019. Overall, humanitarians reached 8.8 million people in 2020 with some form of assistance. A total of $1.8 billion is required to support the humanitarian response in 2021. The 2021 HRP is based on activity-based costing, and premised on the number of people to be targeted.
In 2021, the HRP will prioritize life-saving multisectoral assistance in areas with the highest convergence of severity of needs, including response readiness for recurring flooding, conflict and disease outbreaks. Partners will scale up food assistance, disease prevention and response, and emergency response to people newly displaced by conflict or flooding. The response will also prioritize life-sustaining services, such as essential health services (including vaccination and antenatal care), surveillance and response to waterborne and vector borne diseases, education, livelihood opportunities, water and sanitation, supplemental nutrition and school feeding, aiming to avoid further deterioration.
Finally, the HRP will prioritize the rights-based approach to protection needs, particularly in Darfur where the UNAMID peacekeeping mission is set to close. The modus operandi of humanitarian aid delivery will, as possible and appropriate, support building community capacity to sustain durable solutions and promote social peace.