Many are in desperate need of food and shelter in South Kordofan’s Rashad and Delami counties, more than five months after fleeing their homes.
Residents have been sleeping in caves and dry riverbeds, forced to eat roots and leaves, too afraid to return to their houses and farms.
Most have been displaced since late April, when the government launched a massive attack on the town of Abri. A collection of regular government troops and militias forced the rebel Sudan Revolutionary Front out of the region, towards their strongholds around Kauda, in the Nuba Mountains.
The attacks included heavy shelling into civilian areas and frontal assaults by the Rapid Support Force – the Sudan National Intelligence and Security Service’s (NISS) frontline unit of repurposed Janjaweed militias.
By some estimates as many as 70,000 were displaced in the battles, which spanned several days. By the end of the fighting, the rebel coalition had lost control of large swathes of territory in the northern reaches of the state. The civilians in those regions – seen as supporters of the rebel groups – had no choice but to flee.
Many reported Rapid Support Force and army units setting fire to homes, crop fields and entire villages as residents fled their advance.
Many of the displaced civilians have remained in their makeshift shelters ever since, enduring the hardships of the rainy season and watching food supplies slowly disappear. With the rains now ending and the fields drying up, the region is poised for yet another season of war. But stranded so far north, it may not be possible for any to make the journey to the relative safety of the refugee camps in South Sudan.
As government and rebel forces ready themselves for battle, the displaced living in the caves of Rashad and Delami may be preparing for even more to join them.