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Ashling Cashmore

Head of Impact and Advisory

Charities Aid Foundation

How can we give effectively to Sudan?

In late April 2023, violent conflict broke out in Sudan. According to the UN, since then, more than 700 people have been killed, over 5,000 injured, and the already precarious humanitarian situation has worsened. A temporary ceasefire was agreed this week to restore essential services and deliver humanitarian assistance, but continued fighting has been reported.

Latest figures show 1 million people have been displaced either within the country or have left for neighbouring countries this year, including Chad, South Sudan, and Ethiopia. The inflow of people fleeing violence will strain the stretched humanitarian supply in these countries even further.

Sudan was already one of the poorest countries in the world and this conflict has inflicted a heavy toll on its people. Those who have fled their homes are often arriving without shelter; many neighbourhoods are lacking access to food, water, and fuel; schools have closed, and hospitals are not functional. There has been a surge in reported cases of sexual violence, particularly among displaced people who are on the move searching for shelter and safety. The UN estimates $2.6bn is needed to provide urgent aid for the 25 million people, half the population, in need of humanitarian assistance.

Barriers to giving in Sudan

When faced with a crisis such as the conflict in Sudan, it can be difficult for donors to know the best way to help. Sudan is a heavily sanctioned country which is classed as high-risk for donations. Transfers into such high-risk areas are also subject to anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism rules, making it challenging for donors to direct aid to where it is needed most whilst meeting legal obligations.

Donors may also be concerned about which charities will make the most of their donations. Large international organisations are often experienced in crisis response, for example offering expertise in providing medical aid, experience in the territory, or supporting crisis victims. This kind of support, often at scale, is invaluable particularly in the initial stages of a crisis.

At the same time, delivering funds to locally owned organisations is critical. The evidence shows that direct cash donations are often the best way to help people in disaster zones get the food and shelter they need. Cash donations also give people much needed dignity, enabling them to make their own choices about the goods and services that they need.

Local charities often have deep local networks with the individuals and communities affected by crises, and a rich understanding of the support they need. Local partners on the ground are also often best placed to help communities recover and invest in their communities for the long-term. Giving to these charities strengthens local civil society, by underpinning local resilience and empowering communities to rebuild and prepare for the next challenge.

Despite the power of localised giving, it is not always easy for local partners on the ground to react quickly and deliver emergency aid. It can take time to conduct the appropriate due diligence required to meet legal obligations particularly for overseas donations, which is not a viable option in an evolving crisis. Donors may see a trade-off between responding at speed and directing aid to the local as much as possible.

A long-term response

Long-term funding is critical for supporting people affected by emergencies like the war in Sudan and is often under-funded. Areas like Sudan do not just need aid in the wake of the crisis, but investment over time.

The Centre for Disaster Philanthropy reports that over half of all philanthropic funding in 2019 went towards response and relief activities, with only 17% spent on preparedness, 6% on recovery and 4% on resilience, risk reduction and mitigation. But in Sudan, and elsewhere, the need for aid will not subside after a few months, and it is important funders think carefully about the long-term work of rehabilitation and restoration that promote long-term resilience.

Crisis recovery can last for years, especially where affected communities were vulnerable prior to the crisis. Donors who care about crisis recovery can make a difference by providing the long-term funding, often to local organisations, which is needed to build permanent infrastructure, restore services, and support communities.

Pro-active and reactive

Disaster preparedness is also central to building community resilience and reducing harm if another crisis occurs.

Strategically monitoring the risks of natural disasters and conflicts drives a stronger response to the next crisis. Planning ahead means local partners can prepare for the next disaster and react quickly and effectively to smaller shocks. If we can identify the risks, we can take steps to respond to them, for example, by investing in buildings that can withstand shocks.

One positive wider development is the increased use of mechanisms to embed preparedness for humanitarian response within wider development programmes. “Crisis modifiers” are financing mechanisms within development programmes that are ready to provide an accelerated humanitarian response, or deploy funding, in the event of a crisis.

While this crisis is only just beginning, CAF has almost a hundred years of experience making sure that donors’ money gets to the most urgent causes around the world. We help donors give to charities who understand how to operate in places affected by sanctions, in warzones and in the wake of natural disasters. Our strong network of local and international partners means we can support disaster response as well as long-term capacity building.

From our experience we know that a mix of support, both for large international charities experienced in disaster response, and local charities with strong long-term connections, is the key to effective disaster response, and longer-term rebuilding.

CAF is following the evolving situation in Sudan and how to best support the those impacted by the conflict. At this initial stage, there are a number of large international organisations with experience of working on the ground in Sudan and as the situation evolves, efforts to identify local actors in neighbouring countries and eventually Sudan will be crucial. Looking to be more strategic with your support? Our team of advisers helps individuals and corporates be more effective in their giving.


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