The United Nations has appealed for $4.1bn to meet the humanitarian needs of civilians in war-torn Sudan and to support those who fled the conflict to neighbouring countries.
Ten months since the war broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), half of Sudan’s population – some 25 million people – needs humanitarian assistance and protection, UN agencies said on Wednesday.
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More than 1.5 million people have fled across Sudan’s borders to the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
“Sudan keeps getting forgotten by the international community,” UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told diplomats in Geneva.
In its joint appeal with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called for $2.7bn in funding to provide humanitarian aid for 14.7 million people.
The UNHCR requested an additional $1.4bn to support nearly 2.7 million people in five countries neighbouring Sudan that were already overstretched and were hosting large refugee populations. Both plans aim to support some 17.4 million people in Sudan and the region.
🚨 The crisis in #Sudan demands the world's immediate action.
⚠️The intensifying conflict is causing immense suffering, leaving millions of people in dire need of humanitarian aid.
— UN OCHA Sudan (@UNOCHA_Sudan) February 7, 2024
“There is a certain kind of obscenity about the humanitarian world, which is the competition of suffering, a competition between places: ‘I have more suffering than you, so I need to get more attention, so I need to get more money’,'” Griffiths said.
In December, the RSF captured Gezira state – the country’s breadbasket – getting the upper hand against the army. The state was also a haven for hundreds of thousands of displaced people who relocated from the war-torn capital, Khartoum, earlier in the war, which began in April.
The conflict has created one of the world’s largest displacement and protection crises, the agencies said, and nearly 18 million people face “acute food insecurity”.
With two-thirds of the population lacking access to healthcare, diseases including cholera, measles and malaria are spreading. About 19 million children are out of school. Human rights violations are widespread, said the agencies.
“They desperately need help, and they need it now,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who recently met displaced families in Sudan and neighbouring Ethiopia.
The World Food Programme (WFP), the UN’s food agency, said this week it is receiving reports of people dying of starvation in Sudan and the number of hungry people has doubled over the past year as the ongoing war cuts civilians off from aid.
“The situation in Sudan today is nothing short of catastrophic,” said Eddie Rowe, WFP’s Sudan representative and country director.
The WFP called on Sudan’s warring factions to provide immediate guarantees for the unimpeded delivery of relief.
The conflict has killed 12,000 people, according to UN figures, although the actual death toll is thought to be higher. More than 10 million people have been displaced.
The fighting has continued to escalate despite international attempts to forge a ceasefire.
The conflict broke out over an internationally backed plan to merge the RSF into the SAF and begin a transition towards elections.
The SAF and the RSF had shared power after longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir was toppled in a popular uprising in 2019. The two sides had also jointly staged a coup in 2021 that upended efforts to steer Sudan towards democracy.
Throughout the current war, both the SAF and the RSF have been accused of war crimes, including indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, torture and arbitrary detention of civilians.