Dozens killed near Sudan’s capital as UN warns of soaring displacement

Attack in Khartoum’s sister city of Omdurman comes as UN says internal displacement across Sudan is nearing 10 million.

Displaced Sudanese families wait to receive food
Displaced Sudanese families wait to receive food from a charity kitchen in the city of Omdurman on April 6 [El Tayeb Siddig/Reuters]

Pro-democracy activists in Sudan say about 40 people have been killed in “violent artillery fire” by paramilitary forces in the twin city of the Sudanese capital Khartoum, as fighting and displacement intensify across the war-ravaged country.

The Karari Resistance Committee, one of hundreds of grassroots organisations that coordinate aid across Sudan, said on Friday that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) group was behind the deadly attack on Omdurman a day earlier.

“So far, the death toll is estimated at 40 civilians and there are more than 50 injured, some seriously,” the Karari Resistance Committee said in a statement posted on social media.

“There is still no precise count of the number of victims,” it said, adding that bodies were received by Al Nao university hospital and other private health facilities or were buried by relatives.

The report has come just days after an RSF attack on a village in Sudan’s central Gezira state killed at least 100 people, according to local activists.

War erupted in Sudan in mid-April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary RSF, creating the world’s largest displacement crisis and leaving at least 15,500 people dead, according to United Nations estimates.

The deadly assault on the village of Wad al-Noura on Wednesday drew widespread condemnation this week, including from UNICEF’s Executive Director Catherine Russell, who said at least 35 children were reported killed and more than 20 others injured.

“This is yet another grim reminder of how the children of Sudan are paying the price for the brutal violence,” Russell said in a statement on Thursday.

“Over the past year, thousands of children have been killed and injured. Children have been recruited, abducted and subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence. Over five million children have been forced from their homes.”

Fighting continues daily, including in the capital of Khartoum, with both sides accused of war crimes including the deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and blocking humanitarian aid.

Another flashpoint is the city of el-Fasher in Sudan’s North Darfur region, where RSF paramilitary forces recently launched a deadly assault.

More than 800,000 civilians are trapped in el-Fasher as violence rages, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), and healthcare and other services have collapsed.

“Crucial roads out of el-Fasher are blocked, preventing civilians from reaching safer areas, while at the same time limiting the amount of food and other humanitarian aid coming into the city,” Othman Belbeisi, IOM’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said on Thursday.

The IOM also warned that internal displacement across Sudan could soon top 10 million.

The agency said 9.9 million people were internally displaced across the country’s 18 states; more than half of those displaced are women and more than a quarter are children under age five.

“Imagine a city the size of London being displaced. That’s what it’s like, but it’s happening with the constant threat of crossfire, with famine, disease and brutal ethnic and gender-based violence,” said IOM Director General Amy Pope.

‘We need eyes of the world on Sudan’

Michael Dunford, the World Food Programme’s regional director for East Africa, called the situation in Sudan “nothing short of a tragedy”.

“It’s a country on the verge of collapse,” he told Al Jazeera, saying that the conflict and lack of humanitarian access made reaching the population “extraordinary challenging”.

“Because of the displacement, because people are constantly on the move we are having to constantly change our distribution points so
that we are able to meet those people,” Dunford added.

He called it “the most difficult operation” he has seen in a quarter of a century, citing “the size of the scale, of the need, the challenges that we face, the insecurity, and unfortunately the lack of global attention.

“It’s not that it’s been forgotten but it certainly has been neglected because of what is happening elsewhere in the world, and at this very moment we need the eyes of the world on Sudan because we need all the support that we can get.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies