By Hisham Allam
CAIRO, May 4 2023 (IPS)
On the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, Sabre Nasr, a young Egyptian man of 20, developed a fever.
Sabre, who left Egypt for Sudan to pursue his dream of becoming a dentist after his high school grades prevented him from enrolling at an Egyptian university, was unable to find medical attention even though his temperature reached a dangerous 40 degrees Celcius.
One of his friends, Ahmed, attempted to seek assistance from the nearby hospitals in Khartoum, but all of them were locked. Nasr’s father followed up on the phone, helplessly asking Ahmed to continue helping his son.
Ahmed couldn’t find transport, so he carried his friend for three kilometers to seek medical attention.
They, unfortunately, came home empty-handed. Sabre passed away several hours later.
Sabre was one of the 5,000 Egyptian students studying in Sudan, alongside the 10,000 citizens who work there.
Sabre and his friend were caught unawares when Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) came into conflict on April 15, 2023. Both had been involved in the overthrow of the civilian government in 2021. The tension between the army and RSF was brought to a head following an internationally-brokered agreement to return the country to civilian rule, with the RSF refusing to join the Sudanese military. As ceasefire attempts fail, the conflict continues on the streets of Khartoum, resulting in a humanitarian crisis. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) estimates that 334,000 have been displaced within Sudan, with almost 65,000 estimated to have moved over borders as refugees.
Nasr Sayed, Saber’s father, tells IPS that his son’s friend was a hero who risked his life to provide care for his son and that when he went out to the street for the first time to buy medicine, RSF soldiers stopped him, beat him, and confiscated his money and phone, but this did not deter him from trying to save his friend.
The grieving father claims that he attempted to contact the Egyptian embassy to obtain medicine for his son before his death, to assist in transporting his body to Egypt after his death, or even to bury him in Sudan, but to no avail.
On April 31, 2023, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced that 6,399 citizens had been evacuated via air or land ports.
They also stated that the Egyptian Armed Forces flew 27 missions to evacuate citizens.
Mohamad El-Gharawi, an assistant administrative attaché at the Egyptian embassy in Khartoum, was killed on his way to the embassy’s headquarters to follow up on the evacuation of Egyptians in Sudan, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry reported on April 24, 2023.
Ahmed Saber Ahmed, a builder in his early 40s, relocated to Kalakla, south of Khartoum, in 2008 to work in the construction sector. He and his family remain in the city and have become targets of extensive looting, and the neighborhood they live in is a hotspot for warfare. He blames this on prison breaks during the conflict.
“My family and I are stuck here, and we are trying to manage our lives with what we can buy at double (the usual) prices,” Ahmed tells IPS. “The money thaave is frozen in the bank, and it has been shut down since the beginning of the war.” In addition, a banking app he uses is out of order.
“We are surrounded by armored vehicles on one side and weapons depots on the other, and a few kilometers away are the Sudanese Armed Forces’ central reserve stores and ammunition stores, so we can’t leave or move to search for resources, nor can we move to evacuation points announced by the Egyptian authorities.
“I have three children, including a six-month-old girl who is dependent on formula,” Ahmed says. “All pharmacies had been closed since the beginning of the war, so I couldn’t get her any milk. When I considered going to the evacuation gathering points, I discovered that the drivers were demanding fees of up to USD 300 per person. I don’t even have USD 1,500 to save my family.”
“We’re trapped, broke, helpless, isolated, and patiently awaiting our destiny,” Ahmed tells IPS over the phone.
Muhyiddin Mukhtar, a young Sudanese man, decided to volunteer at South El Fasher Hospital after witnessing dozens of his neighbors being killed by gunmen on motorcycles.
Mukhtar claims that his family decided to stay because leaving would be difficult and dangerous, not to mention the high costs that his family could not afford.
“If you decide to leave, the closest place to us is Chad, and it costs USD 200 per person until we reach the crossing,” Mukhtar says. “A close friend of mine fled to Egypt with the rest of his family, where they experienced severe exploitation by drivers, and each person paid USD 600 till they reached the Arqin crossing border.”
After fighting erupted in nearby areas, Iman Aseel was forced to flee her home in Khartoum.
“When the situation worsened, my sister, aunt, and I decided to travel to Egypt,” Iman explains. “We were not required to obtain permits to enter Egypt because my aunt had three children, but my aunt’s husband had to go to the Halfa crossing to obtain the permit.”
According to Eman, who was on the train from Aswan, 800 kilometers south of Cairo, their transportation to the crossing cost 1.4 million Sudanese pounds, which they didn’t have. “So my aunt’s husband was forced to sell a large portion of his trade and crops at a low price to get the money as soon as possible.”
“We left in our clothes,” Iman, who is 18, confirms, “And as soon as the situation stabilizes, we will return to our homeland immediately.”
Munir Dhaifallah, a bus driver who transports people from Sudan to Egypt, drove Iman and her family to Aswan.
According to him, some bus owners took advantage of the situation and significantly raised their prices because of the risk and the high fuel prices.
Munir’s family has refused to leave North Kordofan.
“It was our destiny, according to my mother. If we were destined to die, it would be better if we died and were buried in our homeland,” he says.
Munir typically drives for 24 hours, then rests for two days before returning on the same route.
Prices have dropped now, according to Munir, because many people have already left, and the foreign nationals have been evacuated, leaving only the poor.
IPS UN Bureau Report