CITY OF NEW YORK: Millions of Sudanese people are facing a humanitarian calamity as the armed confrontation between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces escalates into a “full-blown catastrophe,” according to UN and Sudanese officials on Monday.
During a briefing on the latest developments at the UN headquarters in Geneva, officials from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated that 16 million people in Sudan, or one-third of the population, require assistance, and 3.7 million have been displaced from their homes as a result of the violence that began on April 15.
Sudan’s permanent envoy to the United Nations in Geneva, Hassan Hamid Hassan, stated the Rapid Support Forces started unprovoked attacks against the army and its installations just hours before a scheduled meeting between the heads of both forces.
Fighting erupted in Khartoum more than two weeks ago between forces loyal to Sudan’s regular army chief, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and his former deputy, Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who controls the Rapid Support Forces, a heavily armed militia previously linked with the army.
In a coup in 2021, the two generals seized power from a joint military-civilian transitional administration, two years after the country began a democratic transition following the overthrow of dictatorial President Omar Al-Bashir following months of public protests.
According to Hassan, the ongoing violence has rendered at least 30 hospitals and other medical institutions in Sudan inoperable. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people have been displaced and are in grave danger due to a lack of medical assistance and food, he added.
“The situation in Sudan is concerning,” Hassan said, adding that at least 512 people have died and 4,200 have been injured since the conflict began, according to the country’s Health Ministry.
According to Abdou Dieng, the UN’s acting resident and humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, millions of Sudanese require immediate assistance, and millions more are trapped in their homes, unable to access basic essentials.
Speaking from Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast, he stated that the World Health Organization estimates that one in every four lives lost as a result of the violence could have been prevented if there had been better access to medical care.
Many health facilities have been forced to close, and those that remain open face challenges such as a lack of medical supplies and blood supplies, he added.
Dieng accused all sides of the war for the breakdown of order and the country’s deteriorating humanitarian crisis.
“We have seen a complete lack of respect by the warring parties in internal Sudan, primarily in Khartoum and Darfur, for their obligations under international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, including humanitarian personnel and assets,” he added.
His office and team have relocated to Port Sudan, where they will continue to spearhead efforts to assist Sudanese civilians, he said.
Since the conflict began, an estimated 73,000 people have arrived in neighboring countries, including Chad (30,000), South Sudan (20,000), and Egypt, according to Raouf Mazou, a UN assistant secretary-general and assistant high commissioner for operations at UNHCR, the UN’s Refugee Agency, and the UN is assisting host countries in registering and providing immediate assistance to refugees.
“We have arrived at a planning figure of 815,000 people who may flee into the seven neighboring countries,” he added, “in consultation with all concerned governments and partners.”
The UN expects 580,000 Sudanese nationals and 235,000 South Sudanese people to return to their country under “adverse conditions.”
According to Anthony Neal, coordinator of the Sudan INGO Forum, which enables communication and action among international humanitarian and development organizations operating in Sudan, the country was already dealing with a challenging and complicated humanitarian crisis before the present conflict began.
He stated that the current situation is even more complicated and poses numerous challenges to nongovernmental organizations, given that many of their employees have been forced to relocate due to the fighting, as well as the effects the conflict is having on the banking sector, which is limiting organizations’ ability to pay workers and support their operations.