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Sudan: UN warns of hunger, disease, displacement

August 25, 2023

The UN urged donors who had pledged aid to deliver on their promised contributions. Meanwhile, Sudan's military ruler left the capital to visit army bases on a rare trip since the start of the fighting.

Women who fled the war in Sudan await the distribution of international aid rations at the Ourang refugee camp, near Adre town in eastern Chad on August 15, 2023.
The UN said over 4 million Sudanese have been displaced by the fighting, with many crossing over into neighboring countriesImage: MOHANED BELAL/AFP

The fighting between Sudan's military and its paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which has gripped the country since mid-April, threatens to "consume" all of the country, the UN warned on Friday.

Under General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo's RSF, the military has been locked in a deadly fight for power. Fighting has been primarily centered around the capital, Khartoum, and the conflict-torn Darfur region.

"This viral conflict, and the hunger, disease and displacement left in its wake, now threatens to consume the entire country," said the United Nations' humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths. He added that the conflict was "fueling a humanitarian emergency of epic proportions."

Thousands have died since the start of the war, with millions more displacedwithin Sudan and neighboring countries. The UN estimates the number of those displaced to be around 4.6 million.

Mo Ibrahim: We must help Sudan 'before the fire spreads'

What did Griffiths say?

Griffiths warned on Friday that some places in the country have already run out of food.

"The longer the fighting continues, the more devastating its impact," he said. "Hundreds of thousands of children are severely malnourished and at imminent risk of death if left untreated."

He said that in Kadugli, South Kordofan state, "food stocks have been fully depleted, as clashes and road blockages prevent aid workers from reaching the hungry."

UN's World Health Organization figures showed that over 42% of Sudan's population, some 20.3 million people, are facing acute food security.

US condemns conflict-related sexual violence

The United States condemned "pervasive" conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in Sudan, in a statement issued by the State Department on Friday.

"The numerous reports of rape, gang rape, and other forms of gender-based violence against women and girls in West Darfur and other areas are deeply disturbing," the statement read. "These acts of brutality contribute to an emerging pattern of targeted ethnic violence."

The State Department attributed the reports of sexual violence to credible sources, including victims, who blame the Rapid Support Forces and their allied militias.

The US said it was "gravely concerned" about the situation in and around Nyala, South Darfur, where tens of thousands of civilians were trapped while the fight between Sudan armed forces (SAF) and the RSF paramilitary outfit intensified.

"We call on the RSF and SAF to immediately halt the fighting and allow safe passage for all civilians out of the city.  Perpetrators of atrocities must be held accountable."

Delayed international aid

Griffiths appealed for more funding from the international community and providing access to deliver aid.

"The international community needs to respond with the urgency this crisis deserves," he said.

Earlier this year, international donors pledged $2.6 billion (approximately €2.41 billion) in aid in response to a UN appeal. UN humanitarian agency spokesman Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva that only 26% of the sum has thus far been provided.

"We urge the donor community and those donors who have pledged [but not yet delivered]... to come through with that funding, to speed it up," he said.

Laerke added that besides the funding shortfall, "bureaucratic impediments" were affecting aid deliveries, with several stuck in containers in the eastern Port Sudan and aid workers waiting weeks for visas.

Army general leaves Khartoum

Meanwhile, Burhan left Khartoum, the base of his forces' operations, on a rare trip away from the capital since the conflict started, on a visit to army bases on the outskirts.

Footage and photos on Thursday and Friday showed Burhan in Omdurman, across the Nile, visiting the Atbara artillery base north of Khartoum. Soldiers and civilians carried him and cheered on in the video.

Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (L) posing for a picture with an unidentified civilian in Khartoum during a tour of a neighbourhood in Sudan's capital on August 24, 2023
Burhan appeared in photos with soldiers and civilians cheering him onImage: Sudanese Army/AFP

The army general also intends to leave the country for talks in neighboring countries, two government sources told the Reuters news agency. He is also due to visit regional bases and the government's temporary seat of Port Sudan.

rmt/jcg (AFP, Reuters)