Sudan: OCHA Appeals to Security Council to Do More to ‘Silence the Guns’ in Sudan

Briefing to the Security Council on the Humanitarian Situation in Sudan by Edem Wosornu, Director, Operations and Advocacy for OCHA, on behalf of Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

As prepared for delivery.

Madam President,

It has been just over a year since Sudan was plunged into an unthinkable catastrophe.

On April 15 and the days that followed, the world watched in horror as Khartoum descended into conflict.

Residential neighborhoods became battlegrounds. Office buildings were engulfed in flames. Civilians fled the city, lugging whatever possessions they could carry.

Little did we know then how much worse it would get.

How fast and far the conflict would spread across the country.

How starvation and disease would surge and how more than 8.6 million people would be forced to flee their homes.

How reports of violations of international humanitarian law would skyrocket.

How sexual violence against women and girls would become a widespread tool of war.

And how a generation of children would be traumatized, their prospects for the future stolen from them.

One year on, the outlook for the people of Sudan is bleak. Conflict continues to rage and the risk of famine is here.

I find it particularly distressing to see what has happened in Sudan, given where the country was before this conflict started. A safe refuge for more than 1 million refugees. A regional hub for medical facilities and universities. So much of this is now gone.

Madam President,

Seven months ago, this Council heeded our warnings about the catastrophic impact an attack on El Fasher would have on the civilian population.

Today, that risk is once again becoming a reality.

On 13 April, following weeks of rising tensions and airstrikes, RSF-affiliated militias attacked and burned villages west of El Fasher. Since then, there have been continuing reports of clashes in the eastern and northern parts of the city, resulting in more than 36,000 people displaced. MSF reported that more than 100 trauma patients arrived in their facility in El Fasher in recent days. The total number of civilian casualties is likely much higher.

The violence poses an extreme and immediate danger to the 800,000 civilians who reside in El Fasher. And it risks triggering further violence in other parts of Darfur – where more than 9 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

We reiterate our demand that the parties to the conflict respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. Sexual violence and other inhumane treatment is strictly prohibited. The parties must take constant care to spare civilians and civilian objects.

Madam President, we have made this call many times before. But the reality is that far too often, these obligations do not appear to be upheld.

At the same time, we must also demand that the parties immediately stop the violence around El Fasher and elsewhere in the country.

Madam President,

On Monday, the international community came together in Paris for a humanitarian conference on Sudan and the region.

I would like to express our profound gratitude to the co-hosts for organizing the meeting and to all the Member States and regional organizations who participated.

The event led to several urgently needed outcomes.

First, it resulted in new pledges of funding for the humanitarian response in Sudan and the refugee response in neighboring countries – pledges that must be disbursed as soon as possible.

We have a very narrow window to respond. This is now.

Within the coming six weeks, we need to preposition lifesaving supplies before the rainy season starts in June.

We need to get seeds into the hands of farmers before the planting season in June, and cash into the pockets of displaced people before they fall even deeper into hunger.

Every day that passes puts more lives at risk.

As we warned in the Council last month, food insecurity in Sudan has reached record levels, with the risk of famine now guiding the response.

Let me reiterate that 18 million people are facing acute hunger, a number that is set to surge as the lean season fast approaches.

Exactly one week ago, we launched a Famine Prevention Plan. And on 17 April, we extended the system-wide scale-up declared by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee for a further three months.

Second, the conference enabled us to take forward vital discussions on urgently required humanitarian access.

As we have previously briefed the Council – most recently on 20 March – humanitarian access in Sudan is extremely challenging.

Access impediments have made it almost impossible to move humanitarian supplies to parts of Darfur and Khartoum. And whatever does get in is miniscule compared to the needs.

In the last days, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Clementine Nkweta-Salami, has outlined a series key access priorities.

If we are to avert famine, the parties must take urgent steps to facilitate humanitarian relief for all civilians in need, as required under international humanitarian law.

Humanitarians must be able to reach affected communities wherever they are and through all possible routes.

This includes crossline access from Port Sudan, including into and out of El Fasher and Khartoum, as well as the southern route via Kosti and El Obeid.

We also need the unimpeded and sustained use of Tine and Adre border crossings from Chad, as well as the Renk, Aweil and Panakuach crossings from South Sudan.

Travel authorizations must be expedited and granted within 24 hours. In the current situation – indeed in any situation – it is unacceptable for an interagency convoy to wait more than six weeks for approval.

The parties must not instrumentalize, attack, impede or interfere with humanitarian operations.

Lootings of humanitarian supplies, in particular in the areas under the control of the Rapid Support Forces, must stop.

As a matter of urgency, we will continue to engage with the parties to make progress on these actions, in coordination with all relevant stakeholders.

Third, Monday’s conference served to elevate international attention on Sudan.

For much of the past year, the conflict has remained out of the media spotlight.

Violations often flourish in the shadows.

There have been multiple reports of indiscriminate attacks by both the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in densely populated areas, particularly in the capital Khartoum, as well as in Kordofan and Darfur as reported by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Extremely concerning levels of conflict-related sexual violence continue to be reported, mainly in areas controlled by the Rapid Support Forces.

Aid workers, health workers and local volunteers are being killed, injured, harassed, and arrested with impunity.

We are concerned that many more serious violations are going unreported, particularly with a telecommunications blackout blanketing Khartoum, Darfur and other parts of the country since February.

A blackout that has punished the population and severely hampered our ability to negotiate access to these priority areas.

Madam President,

We need a fundamental change in our support to the people of Sudan.

The people of Sudan cannot wait another month, week or even day – for their suffering to stop.

As outlined, we need three things now: (1) scaled-up action by the parties to protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian access; (2) the quick disbursement of funds for the humanitarian response; and (3) more international engagement on Sudan to silence the guns.

From our end, we will do everything we can. Later this month, I will travel to Sudan together with nine Emergency Directors from other UN agencies and NGOs, to work with our teams to scale up the response.

But we cannot do this alone. We need your help.

Now is the time to act, before it is too late. Millions of lives depend on us.

Thank you.