Monday May 1, 2023
New UN envoy to the region warns that humanitarian situation is ‘reaching breaking point’
Clashes have continued in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, despite the extension of a ceasefire for another 72 hours. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Sudan’s rival military forces have accused each other of violating a fresh ceasefire as the deadly conflict rumbles on for a third week despite warnings of a slide towards civil war.
Both sides said a formal ceasefire agreement that was due to expire at midnight would be extended for a further 72 hours. The army said it hoped what it called the “rebels” would abide by the deal but it believed they had intended to keep up attacks. The parties have kept fighting through a series of ceasefires over the past week.
At least 528 people have been killed and 4,599 wounded since a long-simmering power struggle between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted into conflict on 15 April. The UN believes the actual number of casualties to be far higher.
The fighting in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, has so far seen RSF forces fan out across the city as the army tries to target them largely by using airstrikes from drones and fighter jets.
The conflict has sent tens of thousands of people fleeing across Sudan’s borders and prompted warnings the country could disintegrate, destabilising a volatile region and prompting foreign governments to scramble to evacuate their nationals.
UN emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths, who was announced as an envoy to the region on Sunday, said the country’s “humanitarian situation is reaching breaking point”.
Massive looting of humanitarian offices and warehouses had “depleted most of our supplies. We are exploring urgent ways to bring in and distribute additional supplies,” he said.
The “obvious solution” would be to stop the fighting, he added. But the prospects for negotiations have appeared bleak.
“There are no direct negotiations, there are preparations for talks,” the UN special representative in Sudan, Volker Perthes, told journalists in Port Sudan, adding that regional and international countries were working with the two sides.
The army leader, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has said he would never sit down with the RSF chief, Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, who in turn said he would talk only after the army ceased hostilities.
Griffiths said families were struggling to access water, food, fuel and other commodities, with some unable to relocate due to the cost of transportation out of the worst-hit areas.
Urgent health care “is severely constrained, raising the risk of preventable death”, he said.
The UN refugee agency released new data on Saturday that showed about 6,000 people, most of them women, had fled the fighting to neighbouring Central African Republic over the past two weeks.
Central African Republic, which lies to the south-west of Sudan, is one of the poorest countries in the world.
“The number is made up of 70% women, 15% girls, 10% men and 400 repatriated,” the UNHCR said on Saturday in a tweet, the authenticity of which was confirmed on Sunday by one of the agency’s Central Africa representatives.
A third of Sudan’s 46 million people needed humanitarian aid before the fighting began.
The conflict has derailed an internationally backed political transition aimed at establishing democratic government in Sudan, where former autocratic president Omar Hassan al-Bashir was toppled in 2019 after three decades in power.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report