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Geneva
Friday, May 24, 2024

Sudan: humanitarian disaster foretold

The United Nations humanitarian affairs chief has just issued an urgent appeal to the entire international community concerning the situation in Sudan. The war, which began in mid-April, is taking on worrying proportions and spreading across the country. Fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has already resulted in the internal displacement of over 3.6 million people, while almost a million have fled across borders. A prolonged conflict in Sudan could wipe out the country and tip the region into a humanitarian catastrophe. The humanitarian appeal for 2023 amounted to $55 billion, of which only 27.6% has been received.

In a short statement, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Martin Griffith, expressed his deepest concern about the evolution of the conflict in Sudan.

Lack of food

"The intense fighting that has ravaged the capital Khartoum and Darfur has spread to Kordofan. In the capital of South Kordofan, Kadugli, food stocks have been completely depleted, while clashes and roadblocks are preventing humanitarian workers from reaching the starving. In the capital of West Kordofan, El Fula, humanitarian offices have been ransacked and supplies looted". The UK is also very concerned about the safety of civilians in Al Jazira State, as the conflict closes in on Sudan's breadbasket.

Running for your life

According to the latest UN figures, more than 3.6 million people have fled within Sudan to escape the fighting. Nearly a million others have fled beyond its borders, particularly to Chad and Egypt, but also to the Central African Republic, Ethiopia and Southern Sudan. Host communities are now in dire straits. A prolonged conflict in Sudan could tip the entire region into a humanitarian catastrophe. According to the head of OCHA, "a long-lasting conflict will certainly result in the loss of a generation of children, as millions will be denied access to education, suffer trauma and bear the physical and psychological scars of war". James Elder, spokesman for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that two million children had been displaced since the start of the conflict. Reports of children being used in the fighting are worrying the heads of several UN agencies.

Health emergency

After four months of conflict in Sudan, insecurity and limited access to medicines, medical supplies, electricity and water continue to pose a problem for health care in states directly affected by the conflict. Medical facilities located in areas not affected by the fighting are overwhelmed by the influx of displaced people and the lack of equipment. According to the Preliminary Committee of the Sudanese Doctors' Union, 67% (60 out of 89) of the main hospitals in the affected regions, such as Khartoum, Kordofan and Darfur, were completely out of service on May 31.

Risk of epidemics

With the onset of the rainy season, there is an increased risk of epidemics of water-borne diseases. Cases of severe acute malnutrition, dengue fever, measles and acute watery diarrhoea have been reported in various states. In addition, between April 15 and August 11, 53 attacks on medical facilities were recorded, resulting in 11 deaths and 38 injuries. The World Health Organization (WHO) condemns in the strongest possible terms the multiplication of these acts and the occupation of health facilities.

Imperative need for funds

OCHA's spokesman in Geneva, Jens Laerke, pointed out that a vast humanitarian appeal for $2.6 billion had been launched, and that 26% of it ($666 million) was currently funded.