UN relief chief urges end to ‘humanitarian nightmare’ in Sudan

© UNHCR | Health conditions in Sudan are deteriorating as a result of the conflict in the country.

United Nations, 15 October 2023

Six months of war have plunged Sudan into one of the worst humanitarian nightmares in recent history, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator said on Sunday, calling on the parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Up to 9,000 people have been reportedly killed, more than 5.6 million driven from their homes and 25 million people need aid, because of the conflict that erupted in mid-April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other armed groups. 

In a statement marking the grim milestone, Martin Griffiths, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affair, noted that for half a year, civilians – particularly in Khartoum, Darfur and Kordofan – “have known no respite from bloodshed and terror”, with horrific reports of rape and sexual violence emerging continuously. 

Basic services crumbling

With the number of ethnic clashes increasing, access of aid workers to the people in need is hindered due to lack of security and bureaucratic barriers, explained the Under-Secretary-General.

“At least 45 aid workers have been killed or detained since 15 April – almost all of them are national staff,” he lamented. 

However, even in those areas that humanitarians can access, they are “hamstrung by underfunding”. Only 33 per cent of the $2.6 billion required to help those in need in Sudan in 2023 has been received.

The healthcare situation in Sudan is dire: as more than 70 per cent of healthcare facilities in conflict areas are out of service, cholera is already stalking the country, with more than 1,000 suspected cases. 

Basic services are crumbling. The conflict has kept 19 million children are out of school, significantly setting back their education and the country’s future.

Cease hostilities

In an appeal for a cessation of hostilities, the UNHCR official urged Sudan’s opposing militaries “to have a peace process that will help our brothers and sisters who have been obliged to flee their countries to go back to their countries”. 

As a result of the conflict that erupted in mid-April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other armed groups in mid-April, the UN agency described how families had faced harrowing journeys and become separated while on the move, amid increasing reports of gender-based violence. Malnourishment among children is now described as a major crisis, along with disease outbreaks. 

“I have seen and I have witnessed the level of human rights violations that have happened within Sudan so that what we hear from people who have crossed the borders is really heartbreaking and that’s the protection crisis that we are faced with and it has been ongoing for the past six months,” Mr. Balde said.

‘This cannot go on’

As communities are torn apart, vulnerable people have no access to life-saving aid. Humanitarian needs are mounting in the neighbouring countries where millions have fled.

“This cannot go on,” the UN relief chief said, appealing to the conflict parties. He urged them to uphold obligations under international humanitarian law and to recommit to dialogue at the highest levels to end this conflict.

He stressed that the time had come for them to honour the commitments made in Jeddah to protect civilians and allow humanitarian aid.

“The international community cannot desert the people of Sudan,” underscored Mr. Griffiths requesting also the donors to step up their support. 

The original article appeared here.

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