According to a prominent UN official, the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces militia is still ongoing, despite both parties having agreed to a ceasefire in order to alleviate the escalating humanitarian crisis in Sudan.
Speaking from Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast, Abdou Dieng, the UN’s acting resident and humanitarian coordinator in the country, said the warring factions have failed to respect several attempts at a truce agreement.
As a result, the humanitarian situation across the country is “extremely difficult” and people are “extremely vulnerable,” he added.
Millions of Sudanese civilians are in urgent need of food, shelter, clean water and medical aid, Dieng said. Hundreds have been killed and thousands injured as a result of the fighting, including humanitarian workers, he added. In addition, looting is rampant across the country, including at warehouses where humanitarian aid and food supplies are stored.
“Houses, offices, cars, warehouses and the little food that had existed in the humanitarian warehouses has been looted. It’s a very, very worrying situation,” Dieng said.
At least 512 people have been killed and 4,200 wounded since the fighting began on April 15, according to the Sudanese Health Ministry. The country’s Doctors’ Syndicate, which tracks civilian casualties, said at least 295 civilians have died and 1,790 have been wounded.
Dieng said about 60 percent of healthcare facilities in Sudan have closed down or been destroyed, and that according to UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, nine children have been killed and 50 injured during the conflict.
The fighting has complicated an already difficult humanitarian situation in Sudan where, even before it began, the UN was providing assistance for about 15 million people, including internally displaced persons and refugees, he explained.
“The needs are all over the place, whether it’s food, clean water, healthcare or protection of civilians,” said Dieng.
The UN is appealing for $1.7 billion in funding from donors so that it can assist the millions of people under its care in Sudan but so far has received only about $200 million of pledges, less than 15 percent of the total required.
Meanwhile, thousands of Sudanese civilians are fleeing to neighboring Egypt, Chad, Ethiopia or South Sudan to escape the fighting, and nations around the world have embarked on emergency evacuation missions to get their citizens to safety.
Dieng said remaining UN staff in Sudan have relocated to Port Sudan from the capital, Khartoum, where the fighting is most intense and the security situation is especially dangerous and unpredictable.
Because airports in the country are no longer operating, many foreigners have been brought to Port Sudan, to board ships to take them across the Red Sea to the Saudi city of Jeddah, from where they can travel on to their home countries or other locations.
The “fighting must stop,” Dieng said, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those who need it, and in the meantime he called for “humanitarian corridors” to be established as safe zones for the delivery of aid.
He added that the ongoing fighting and the dangerous conditions across the country make it very difficult to accurately assess the full scale of the humanitarian crisis.
The Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces previously agreed a three-day ceasefire, which was due to expire late on Thursday, though, as noted, it has not been fully observed. The army said it had “initially accepted” a diplomatic initiative, brokered by the eight-nation East African trade bloc known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, to extend the truce for another three days.
The US also brokered a 72-hour ceasefire on April 24 that was still holding in some places on Thursday. However, the warring factions accuse each other of violating the agreements.