A woman wearing a blue vest (on the right) standing face-to-face to a woman wearing a traditional dress. Both women are smiling at each other. A clay wall appears in the background with a hay roof above.
UN Volunteer Isadora Zoni (right) interviewing a woman affected by floods at Al Redis 1 Refugee Camp in Sudan's White Nile State in December 2022.

The UN Volunteers returning to Sudan to support those in need

On 15 April 2023, armed conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces broke out in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Over two million people have fled to other parts of the country and over 880,000 to neighbouring countries. The United Nations evacuated international staff from the city and Port Sudan was established as an alternative station for UN operations. This article features three international UN Volunteers who have returned to Sudan and are currently supporting the crisis response.

UN Youth Volunteer Love-lis Liljeström (Sweden) is supporting the roll out of the crisis response of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Port Sudan. Love-lis is a Programme Liaison Affairs/Transition Affairs Assistant, and her assignment is fully funded by Sida, Sweden.

Love-lis was part of the early assessment missions back into Sudan, visiting project sites and engaging in discussions with host communities and internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled the violence in Khartoum. Love-lis was fascinated by the dedication and selfless efforts of grassroots initiatives in delivering life-saving emergency assistance and learnt the importance of empowering them. 

While delivering programmes in such complex contexts is a challenge and can take a heavy toll, Love-lis shares that striking a balance between accepting the reality without getting totally consumed by it has helped her function and produce meaningful results. Her most memorable experience has been reuniting with national colleagues who were displaced by the conflict, yet have bravely continued to work under the current circumstances.   

Witnessing first-hand the impact and the complicated operating environment has made me grow professionally. It has challenged me to think outside the box and work more creatively to uncover and enable opportunities for delivery. --Love-lis Liljeström, UN Youth Volunteer with UNDP, Sudan

UN Volunteer Rached Cherif (Tunisia) is serving with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as an Associate Communications and Reporting Officer. Upon the arrival of the evacuation convoy of UN staff in Port Sudan from Khartoum, he was asked by the Representative to stay and help with the mission ahead.

Rached agreed and became a part of the crisis management unit.  He led the inter-agency rapid need assessment in Port Sudan. Rached managed media relations and willingly took on additional responsibilities to support emergency activities in Port Sudan. He supported the distribution of aid to the rapidly increasing number of displaced individuals arriving in the city.

Embracing the challenge, Rached viewed this as an opportunity to contribute to crucial efforts during a time of high demand and limited resources. He was then assigned to Wadi Halfa, near the Egyptian border. Once again, his versatility proved valuable as he supported in conducting protection interviews, mapping gathering sites, and the preparation of cash interventions.

The biggest challenge for Rached was witnessing the despair and suffering of the increasing number of people displaced by the conflict, as most of them had lost everything. However, he also saw their determination to move on.

Volunteering during Sudan’s crisis has fostered a deeper understanding and empathy towards others, enhancing my ability to relate and connect with people and giving me a stronger sense of purpose. --Rached Cherif, UN Volunteer with UNHCR, Sudan

Also serving with UNHCR is UN Volunteer Isadora Zoni (Brazil). As an Associate Reporting Officer in Kosti, she has been at the forefront of delivering assistance to over 144,000 refugees, who have sought safety in White Nile State.

Isadora has also been supporting thousands of internally displaced persons to settle in the region. In a complex and ever-changing landscape, her focus is on documenting the current situation, coordinating the interagency response, and securing the necessary visibility for UNHCR operations in White Nile State. 

Isadora says that it is painful to see people who have already been forced to flee before become displaced again. While she struggles to cope with the new challenges created by the conflict in Sudan, she accepts that it comes with the decision to stay and deliver.

She is driven by a deep commitment to making a difference on the ground. She explains that witnessing the strength of the communities she serves has fueled her dedication to ensuring that their stories are heard, and their needs are met. 

This humanitarian journey has taught me the true essence of compassion, collaboration, and resilience. It's a privilege to play a role in helping people rebuild their lives and restore hope amidst challenging circumstances. –- Isadora Zoni, UN Volunteer with UNHCR, Sudan