United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned on Monday that estimates that about a million people might flee Sudan by October may be conservative and conflict there risks increasing people trafficking and spreading weapons across a fragile region
More than 350,000 people have already fled across Sudan's borders since war between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted on April 15, with most heading to Egypt, Chad and South Sudan.
Furthermore, within Sudan itself, more than one million people have been displaced due to heavy fighting in the capital Khartoum and violence in Darfur.
The UNHCR initially predicted that around 800,000 Sudanese and 200,000 foreigners would leave Sudan in six months, but Grandi now believes these figures may be an underestimation.
Speaking during an interview in Cairo, Grandi said: “This projection, that in the next few months we'll reach these high figures, may even be conservative.”
“At the beginning, I didn't believe it would be, but now I'm beginning to be worried,” he said, according to Reuters.
Sudan's neighbors, Ethiopia, Central African Republic and Libya have faced political upheaval or conflicts themselves.
Grandi expressed concern about the collapse of law and order in Sudan and said that with “a lot of people desperate to move on” the situation is ripe for creating conditions for human trafficking. He also said that the circulation of arms across borders could fuel the violence.
“We've seen it in Libya with the Sahel. We don't want a repeat of that because that will be a multiplier of crisis and of humanitarian problems,” he added.
The United Nations has appealed for $470 million for its refugee response to the Sudan crisis over six months, an amount that Grandi said was just 1% funded, adding that a donor pledging conference was “very much needed” and that an international community preoccupied by Ukraine was not paying enough attention.
“You can clearly sense a disparity which is very dangerous. This crisis has the potential to destabilize an entire region and beyond as much as Ukraine does in Europe,” he warned.
Grandi said the UNHCR was trying to establish a presence in the northern Sudanese town of Wadi Halfa, where many Sudanese men aged 16-50 have become stuck applying for visas to enter Egypt, but that he was not sure when this would be possible. Women, children and the elderly do not need visas.
He said aid needed to be delivered into a buffer zone between the Egyptian and Sudanese border posts where those fleeing have also faced long waits.