Ashling Cashmore

Ashling Cashmore

Head of Impact and Advisory

Charities Aid Foundation

How can we give effectively to Sudan?

23 May 2023

In late April 2023, violent conflict broke out in Sudan. Since then, more than 700 people have died, over 5,000 injured, and the already precarious humanitarian situation has worsened. This week we've seen a temporary ceasefireto restore essential services and deliver humanitarian aid. But there have been reports of continued fighting.

The latest figures show 1 million people have fled their homes, many for neighbouring countries including Chad, South Sudan, and Ethiopia. This inflow of people 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 people who are on the move searching for shelter and safety. The UN estimates $2.6 billion is needed to provide urgent aid for the 25 million people, half the population, in need of humanitarian aid.

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 and classed as high-risk for donations. Transfers are subject to anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism rules. This makes it challenging for donors to give directly while 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, such as 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 local organisations is critical. Evidence shows that direct cash donations are often the best way to help people in disaster zones get the food and shelter they need. They 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 networks with the communities affected, and an 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 resilience and empowers 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 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. Only 17% went 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. Funders should think carefully about the long-term rehabilitation and restoration work to promote resilience.

Crisis recovery can last for years, especially where affected communities were vulnerable before a crisis. Donors 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.

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 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, wars and natural disasters. Our network of local and international partners means we can support disaster response as well as long-term capacity building.

We know that a mix of support, both for large international charities and local charities, 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. 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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