Scaling up amid Sudan's crisis: Surge deployees in action

Nine Information Management Officers (IMOs) are currently deployed by our Global Surge Team at iMMAP Inc. to provide IM capacity to the humanitarian actors engaged in the response.

An aerial view over Dali, near Tawila in North Darfur, Sudan. August 2011. UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran

Sudan, now in its seventh month of conflict, finds itself immersed into a complex humanitarian crisis, leaving little room for an immediate resolution. Since hostilities erupted on April 15th, intense battles have continued to rage across various states of Africa's third-largest country. 

The dire situation has forced a staggering 5.5 million people to flee their homes, either within Sudan or to neighboring countries (OCHA). Additionally, a staggering 20.3 million people, or 42% of Sudan's population, require food assistance, while 6.26 million are in an emergency situation, at Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Level 4 (IPC). 

"The scale of the crisis in Sudan is staggering," said Hamzah Khamis, one of the nine Information Management Officers (IMOs) currently deployed by our Global Surge Team at iMMAP Inc. to provide IM capacity to the humanitarian actors engaged in the response.  

“Sudan is undeniably one of the major emergencies in which I have been deployed in to provide humanitarian information management support, concurs Alex Modi, an IMO seconded to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan but based in Nairobi, Kenya. On one hand, Sudan is embroiled in a complex and unpredictable conflict. On the other hand, this conflict is making the country’s pre-existing challenges, that impacted the country before April 15th, even worse. And on top of that, humanitarian access is very problematic in large swathes of the country. 

Roadblocks, checkpoints, and looting further obstruct the efforts of humanitarian actors trying to reach affected populations. Since the conflict's inception, over 900 incidents affecting humanitarian operations have been documented (OCHA), with at least 19 humanitarian workers losing their lives. 

If reaching affected populations to provide basic needs – such as food items or health services – is an enduring challenge, the situation is so dire in the country that even communicating with certain remote areas is nearly impossible. "When the first clashes erupted in Khartoum – Sudan's infrastructure hub – telecommunication towers were destroyed as the power grid was severely derailed," detailed Bright Ocokdhogu, an Information Management Officer (IMO) seconded to the World Food Program (WFP) for the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) and based in Nairobi. 

“As IMOs and humanitarians, collecting and distributing information in a timely manner is a priority”, states Bright. “The pace at which you are relaying the information is directly impacting the quality of the response.” With unrealiable Internet connection and even a shortage of radio, IMOs must get creative to collect and gather the necessary data.“Communication is definitely one of our main challenges, as we are not always able to reach our partners in a timely manner in most of the states in Sudan”, echoes Hamzah, who supports the Food Security Cluster from Amman, Jordan. “Sometimes the only solution is to send to partners on the ground an offline data collection form that we will later populate manually.”  

Despite the many challenges, the IMOs supporting Sudan begin to see the results of their work on the crisis – mindful of the crucial role they play in humanitarian crises. 

While Sudan's crisis remains severely underfunded, with only a 31.8% funded appeal, the seconded IMOs continue their work undeterred. "When I arrived in July, the ETC Cluster was only 5% funded. Now, we stand at 68%," noted Bright. “So, I believe our activities, the information we are gathering, are bringing momentum for the donors to add more funds to support the response through evidence based decisions”  

At the Food Security cluster, Hamzah has also observed significant progress. "Upon my arrival, we were working with data from only 6 partners, covering 9 states. Now, we're proud to work with 30 organizations, covering all 18 Sudanese states.” 

Meanwhile, Alex, fully aware that there's no time to pause, remains optimistic. "While we are continuing to develop the information products and reports to support the advocacy, there’s still significant work to be done and we must continue to push forward”, said Alex.  

With Sudan continuing to face one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises, relief efforts must be expanded, claim all the IMOs we interviewed. "We need to scale up our efforts to help every Sudanese, in every locality," stressed Hamzah. However, the war still rages on, and the needs continue to grow. "For now, we do what we can to maintain some semblance of relief until better days arrive," said Bright. 

With the long-standing support of the USAID - Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), our Global Surge Team has been providing surge capacity support in emergency operations since 2012 through the Standby Partnership Programme.