Six months of war have plunged Sudan into one of the worst humanitarian nightmares in recent history, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs said on Sunday, calling on the parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law.
In a statement marking the grim milestone, Martin Griffiths, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted that for half a year, civilians “have known no respite from bloodshed and terror”, with horrific reports of rape and sexual violence emerging continuously, particularly in the capital Khartoum, and in the states of Darfur and Kordofan.
Up to 9,000 people have been reportedly killed, according to the UN, more than 5.6 million displaced 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.
Half a year of war has plunged #Sudan into one of the worst humanitarian nightmares in recent history.— Martin Griffiths (@UNReliefChief) October 15, 2023
Civilians have known no respite from bloodshed and terror.
Basic services are crumbling.
This cannot go on.
My statement: https://t.co/My1ra4Pwte
The number of ethnic clashes is also increasing, complicating access for aid workers to the people in need, due to lack of security and to some bureaucratic barriers, he added.
“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 health care 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 and the conflict has kept 19 million children are out of school, significantly setting back their education and the country’s future.
The first bombs fell on Khartoum on 15 April, forcing the capital's residents to flee, as entire neighbourhoods were razed and essential services paralysed.
Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan's fighters have since been pitted against those of his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Burhan, the de facto leader of Sudan since leading a 2021 coup, had spent over four months stuck inside the army headquarters in Khartoum, besieged by Daglo's men.
He then left Khartoum at the end of August for Port Sudan, but for the capital there has been no let-up in fighting. Conflict then inflamed the western region of Darfur, where allegations of ethnically motivated attacks by the RSF have led to an international war crimes investigation.
Some of those who could escape the bloodshed and destruction rushed to the Red Sea coast about 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) to the east, towards Port Sudan, now home to Sudan's only functioning airport.
The city has since became a sanctuary for fleeing civilians and a transit hub for foreigners leaving the northeast African country.
"Every day, civilians in Sudan are being killed and displaced as the conflict continues to rage; countless lives have been needlessly destroyed in the last six months" Amnesty International's Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Tigere Chagutah, also said this weekend.
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, urging them to uphold obligations under international humanitarian law and to recommit to dialogue at the highest levels to end this conflict.
Escalation and regionalisation
International observers have also warned about the regionalisation of the conflict.
On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Egypt has delivered drones to the Sudanese military, citing security officials, which could foster further escalation of the conflict that is drawing in more regional players.
WSJ News Exclusive: Egypt sent drones to Sudan's military to bolster its fight against a powerful warlord, a potentially dangerous escalation of a conflict that is drawing in more regional players https://t.co/ls1ahVOa6l— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) October 14, 2023
Egypt delivered Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones to Sudan's military last month, the Journal reported.
Spokesmen for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry and the Sudanese military haven't return requests for comment yet.