Hit with both fear and relief, hundreds of board the Qatar Emiri flight to head to safety as they flee the rising death toll in war-torn Sudan.
Men and women, young and old, clutched their few bags close as they boarded the Qatar Emiri Air Forces plane to head to Doha from Port Sudan, on Saturday afternoon.
Children, some too young to comprehend the gravity of the situation, clung tightly to their elders, eyes wide with fear and fascination, as 300 people were seated and airlifted to the Gulf state in the largest evacuation yet by Qatar.
Over 200,000 civilians have fled Sudan to various countries across the world since the outbreak of violence last month, as the ongoing clashes transform the Sudanese homeland into a dangerous battleground.
“There are people who had airstrikes fall on them in their houses. Some got injured and some even died. The Rapid Security Forces (RSF) have destroyed Khartoum completely,” Atef*, an elderly Sudanese evacuee told Doha News upon arriving to Qatar on Saturday.
Latest reports indicate a staggering toll, with an estimated 600 dead, thousands injured and over a million internally displaced, as numbers rise everyday.
Despite the military and RSF agreeing to protect civilians following talks in Jeddah, the situation remains unpredictable on the ground. The eruption of violence has left cities decimated, families torn apart and essential services almost non-existent.
The International Red Cross has described the situation as one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent times.
In the face of such dire circumstances, Qatar, like many other nations, has been instrumental in evacuating hundreds of Sudanese civilians with residencies in the country.
This move is part of a larger initiative by Qatar, in collaboration with international organisations, to provide humanitarian relief to the African nation, sending multiple shipments of food, clean water, medical aid and shelter materials.
Doha News boarded the flight carrying seventeen tonnes of medical aid and equipment on Saturday, which was also the fourth plane to return with hundreds fleeing from the rising death toll.
The aid, provided by the ICRC in collaboration with the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS), will be distributed to thousands of individuals across the country.
According to Mohamed bin Ibrahim Al Sada, Qatar’s Ambassador to Sudan, who was in Port Sudan assisting with the aid and evacuees on the same-day flight, the aid will be delivered by dedicated teams on the ground to ensure it reaches those most in need.
The official added that the country has expanded its relief efforts to include several parts of Sudan, distributing different aid types depending on the needs of the different areas.
“The office started immediate supplies of various food parcels to the families,” said Dr. Salah Daak, QRCS’s head office manager in Sudan.
“Most have fled the crisis and are now homeless with no support or place. So the very first support came from QRCS, which included food parcels, then they moved to Port Sudan and also supported the people in the desert.”
Aid from Qatar’s humanitarain NGOs
Earlier last week, the Qatar Red Crescent alone declared the allocation of one million USD for the immediate implementation of relief interventions.
The organisation was one of the first to aid the Sudanese people when the crisis erupted and continues to lend a helping hand despite the threat surrounding them.
Qatar Charity, in addition to other international organisations, also sent several relief shipments and deployed teams in Sudan to aid the hundreds of thousands in need, and help alleviate some of their suffering.
The ambassador told Doha News that the efforts are far from over, as the Gulf nation continues to send relief to the war-torn country and evacuating people, whilst more requests stack up at Qatar’s embassy in Sudan everyday.
Hundreds of boxes have been prepared in a safe location in Doha, packed and ready to depart to Sudan soon, a QRCS official told Doha News on Saturday.
‘Grateful to Qatar’: Sudanese evacuees
The military plane landed on the tarmac in Doha on Saturday evening, carrying hope and gratitude.
“Qatar helped us a lot and did not come short in helping the Sudanese people. They did what they had to do and more. Even the ambassador is such a humble person and came with us and helped us all himself when we were evacuating,” Ahmed*, one of the evacuees told Doha News upon landing in the Gulf country.
“What can we say? We are grateful.”
With the latest flight, the number of people evacuated to the Gulf nation has surpassed 800, according to officially released figures, with more expected to arrive in the coming days.
Upon landing, the evacuees are then directed to buses which transport them to a safe location in Doha to be reunited with their loved ones.
However, many residents in Sudan remain in limbo and at the whims of war in their country.
“There are a lot of people in Khartoum who are affected by what is going on. There are some who had their homes destroyed, or even robbed, and some had their cars robbed,” Atef told Doha News.
“There are people who had airstrikes fall on them in their houses. Some got injured and some even died. The RSF have destroyed Khartoum completely.”
The international community has been watching with bated breath as the violence unfolds, with many being quick to criticise the difference in responses between these crisis and those elsewhere in European countries.
Whilst Qatar along with other regional countries and entities have expended efforts in aid and evacuations, much more needs to be done as the situation remains dire.
Similarly, the journey of the Sudanese evacuees remains far from from over. Though they may have found temporary solace in the Gulf nation, the long term harms to them and their homelands poses a daunting prospect in being unknown.
*Names marked with an asterisk have been changed for security purposes.