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Sudan’s lost sea access worsens humanitarian disaster

The beach, Red Sea State, Port Sudan, Sudan.

The beach, Red Sea State, Port Sudan, Sudan.

Eric Lafforgue / Hans Lucas via Reuters Connect

Since fighting between rival military factions in Sudan erupted last April, nearly 8 million people have been displaced, and 24 million require urgent food aid. But the crisis now may begin to beggar description as the country loses access to its Red Sea coast and migrants stream across its borders.

Refugee influx. Over 400,000 Sudanese refugees have fled to Libya, where they face long waits for registration, leading many to turn to smugglers to attempt dangerous Europe-bound sea crossings. Their first destination is Italy, with nearly 6,000 Sudanese refugees arriving there in 2023.

Numbers are expected to soar this year, prompting Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to urge support for investments designed to disincentivize migration. Meloni unveiled a plan last month to enhance energy cooperation with African states and assist them in areas including health and education, at a cost of 3 million euros annually for four years.

Impact of Houthi attacks. Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have cut off Sudanese ports and are disrupting aid shipments, forcing humanitarian agencies to reroute deliveries at significantly higher costs. Some shipments are delayed, others are stuck altogether, and still more face exorbitant air-freight costs. Aid workers describe the situation as "catastrophic" and fear mass starvation is imminent.


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