Children Sudan orphanage ICRC

Sudan: Relief as ICRC evacuates 300 children "towards safety, away from the sounds of gunfire"

Amid heavy combat that has devastated Khartoum for six gruelling weeks, a glimmer of relief emerged as 300 children and 71 dedicated caretakers from Mygoma Orphanage were successfully evacuated on 7 June 2023. The destination: Wad Madani, located approximately 200 kilometres away.
Article 09 June 2023 Sudan

Carin Naike Kohl, the Protection Coordinator in Sudan and part of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team behind the operation, sheds light on its nature and challenges. 

The nannies and orphanage director were doing their best, but there were many children with medical needs. It became increasingly urgent to find them a better place where they could receive the proper and appropriate medical care that they need but also to find safety they couldn't find in Khartoum.

What was it like on the bus journey to Wad Madani?

There was a mix of emotions in the air. There was a general feeling of relief, as people knew they were headed towards safety, away from the sounds of gunfire. Yet, grief shadowed the moment as nannies and workers left behind their homes and years of dedication, uncertain of what lay ahead.The older children were very happy, while the younger ones may not have fully comprehended the situation, making it a bittersweet moment for all involved.

Tell us about the challenges the team faced during the evacuation.

The team faced significant challenges, primarily in the logistical aspect of evacuating such a large group of children. Organizing buses, food, and other essentials posed considerable obstacles. However, through a remarkable display of teamwork, the operation prevailed, marked by numerous discussions and collaboration at various levels. Everything worked out well.

Support Sudan Today

Your donation helps protect and save lives.


What role did the ICRC play in ensuring the safe passage and well-being of the children and staff from the Mygoma Orphanage?

We played a vital role as a neutral intermediary, responding to the Ministry of Social Development's request for support in evacuating the children and staff from the orphanage. Our role involved first and foremost obtaining safe passage from the parties to the conflict, coordinating logistics, such as transportation and provisions, and of course, maintaining continuous communication with the Orphanage and the Ministry of Social Development as well as the Ministry of Health. We safely transported the children from Khartoum to Wad Madani, a three-hour journey, where they were handed over to the Ministry of Social Development for continued care and placement.

What lessons did you gain from the evacuation experience?

No amount of preparation could fully anticipate the complexities of such an endeavour. Nonetheless, the collective effort and unity of the team prevailed. Even team members who had never dressed a baby before stepped up to ensure a dignified process, balancing the urgency to leave with the need for calm. The volatile situation, with shelling audible in the background, added pressure. It was a momentous decision - it was time to leave. The sense of relief grew as we passed the checkpoints, with even the babies somehow sensing the change in their environment.

A woman feeds a child as International Committee of the Red Cross evacuates children and caretakers from the Mygoma Orphanage in Khartoum, in Wad Madani, Sudan.

Will you carry out more evacuations in the future?

The ICRC stands ready to assist, but security guarantees from all sides are crucial for any future evacuation operations to proceed. This remains a precondition for our involvement.

Since fighting broke out in Sudan on 15 April 2023, the ICRC has been closely cooperating with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society to deliver surgical supplies to hospitals, help collect and identify mortal remains, and improve access to clean water. The two organizations have also supported families who lost contact with their loved ones. In addition, the ICRC has maintained dialogue with all the parties to facilitate medical evacuations of wounded people and remind them of their obligations under the norms of international humanitarian law.


 Support our work in Sudan