Sudan battles rage as UN agencies warn of ‘catastrophe’
Fierce fighting between rival generals raged on in Sudan on Tuesday despite the latest truce, as warnings multiplied of the potential for a “catastrophic” humanitarian crisis with hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Bloodshed has gripped Sudan since April 15 when tensions erupted into armed exchanges between regular army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy turned rival, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
Hundreds have been killed and thousands wounded as air strikes and artillery exchanges have gripped swaths of greater Khartoum, sparking the exodus of thousands of Sudanese to neighboring countries.
Many more cannot afford the arduous journey to Sudan’s borders, and have been forced to hole up inside the city of five million people with dwindling supplies of food, water and electricity.
“We are hearing some sporadic gunfire, the roaring of a warplane and the anti-aircraft fire at it,” said one resident of south Khartoum.
Other witnesses reported air strikes in north and east Khartoum.
In a Monday briefing, the top United Nations (UN) aid official in Sudan, Abdou Dieng, warned the situation was turning into “a full-blown catastrophe.”
Kenyan President William Ruto said the conflict had reached “catastrophic levels” with the warring generals declining “to heed the calls by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union and the international community to cease fire.”
In a virtual meeting with senior United Nations (UN) officials, Ruto said it was imperative to find ways to provide humanitarian relief “with or without a ceasefire.”
The two sides “told us that they are ready to start talks on technical level over a ceasefire,” U.N. Special Representative for Sudan Volker Perthes told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television in an interview released on Tuesday.
Relief trickles in
Foreign governments have scrambled to evacuate their citizens.
Over the past 10 days, thousands of foreigners have been brought to safety by air or sea in operations that are now winding down.
Russia’s armed forces said on Tuesday they were evacuating more than 200 people from Sudan on four military transport planes.
Nearly 500 people arrived in the Saudi port of Jeddah on Monday aboard two vessels – one a US Navy ship, the other Saudi.
On Tuesday, UN said its 2023 aid appeal for Sudan was $1.5 billion short.
Top UN humanitarian official Martin Griffiths arrived in Nairobi on Monday on a mission to find ways to bring relief to the millions of civilians trapped inside Sudan.
Sudan’s turmoil has seen hospitals shelled, humanitarian facilities looted and foreign aid groups forced to suspend most of their operations.
At least 528 have been killed and some 4,600 wounded in the violence, according to the health ministry.
The UN refugee agency said more than 100,000 refugees were estimated to have fled Sudan to neighboring countries, including Sudanese refugees, South Sudanese returning home prematurely and others who were themselves refugees in Sudan.
The agency said it was bracing for the “possibility that over 800,000 people may flee.”
The World Health Organization warned the fighting was pushing Sudan’s already ailing health sector toward “disaster” with only 16 percent of health facilities in Khartoum still functioning.
The agency said it had delivered six containers of medical equipment to Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast, including supplies for treating trauma injuries and severe acute malnutrition.
It had also distributed scarce fuel to hospitals which rely on generators for power.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it delivered 10 tons of supplies to a hospital in Khartoum as teams were starting to arrive to “launch emergency response activities.”
Beyond Khartoum, lawlessness has engulfed the West Darfur state capital, El Geneina, where at least 96 people have been reported killed since the start of the fighting, according to UN figures.
More than 330,000 people have been internally displaced, over 70 percent of them in West and South Darfur states, according to the International Organization for Migration.