UN condemns attack in Sudan by RSF paramilitaries that left at least 100 dead

Horrific violence and the risk of famine continue to stalk the people of Sudan, UN humanitarians warned on Friday (07 Jun), as they echoed condemnation by the UN Secretary-General of an attack on a village south of Khartoum that reportedly left more than 100 dead.

Briefing journalists in Geneva from Port Sudan, Mohamed Refaat, the UN migration agency (IOM)’s chief of mission in the country highlighted “truly horrifying reports of violent attacks and casualties” in the village of Wad Al-Noura in Aj Jazirah state on Wednesday.

The attack was reportedly carried out by the RSF and believed to have killed over 100 people, including at least 35 children, drawing condemnation from UN chief António Guterres and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) head Catherine Russell.

At another flashpoint of the conflict, in North Darfur’s capital El Fasher in Sudan’s west, some 800,000 civilians are still in danger amid intensified fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the rival Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The location is “inaccessible” to the UN either cross-live or cross-border, Mr. Refaat said. He called for all parties to facilitate unimpeded aid access to the area “through all available routes” and stressed that the prices of water and fuel there have “skyrocketed”, making essentials unaffordable.

Internal displacement in Sudan since the start of the conflict on 15 April 2023 has almost reached the 10 million mark, IOM’s Mr. Refaat noted, with food insecurity an increasing factor in people’s decision to flee. Some 18 million people in the country are acutely hungry while 3.6 million children are acutely malnourished.

In addition to the internally displaced, over two million people have fled across Sudan’s borders into neighbouring countries, mainly Chad, South Sudan and Egypt, “often arriving in extremely vulnerable conditions and highly traumatized”, Mr. Refaat stressed.

The IOM spokesperson also warned of a threefold increase recorded by IOM last year “in Sudanese taking dangerous, irregular migration corridors into Libya, Tunisia, onward to Europe” and quoted “unconfirmed reports” of some 2,000 families currently “stranded in hard conditions, including migrants between the borders between Egypt, Libya and Sudan”.

Echoing his comments, Alpha Seydi Ba, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)’s regional spokesperson for West and Central Africa, spoke of the devastating situation in Chad, where over 600,000 Sudanese have arrived since the start of the crisis. “You’ve seen people coming on a daily basis by dozens in a very, very bad shape, and most of them are women, children who have experienced an unimaginable, unimaginable trauma,” he said.

Chad was already hosting more than 400,000 Sudanese refugees before this crisis, Mr. Ba explained, adding, “we really appreciate that… the authorities have kept their borders open”. But responding to refugees’ basic needs such as shelter, food, access to education for children and psychological support has become increasingly challenging due to funding shortfalls.

UNHCR said that the response plan for five neighbouring countries hosting those who have fled Sudan, for a total of $1.4 billion, is only nine per cent funded. The humanitarian response inside Sudan remains only 16 per cent funded.

Meanwhile, the UN health agency WHO sounded the alarm over the dire health situation in the country which has been further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

“The health system in Sudan is collapsing,” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told journalists, adding that some 65 per cent of the population lack access to care.

“Health care in Sudan typically relied heavily on Khartoum, where the health care system was decimated,” Mr. Lindmeier said. “Only about 25 per cent of the medical supplies needed are available in the country. In hard-to-reach areas, only 20 to 30 per cent of health facilities remain functional, and even so, at a minimal level.”

The WHO spokesperson warned of a record number of measles cases in 2023 as vaccination rates declined due to the conflict.

“Unfortunately, we expect 2024 to be worse,” he added.

WHO said that cholera, malaria and dengue are also on the rise and expressed concern over the lack of treatment for people suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases and kidney failure.

Additional sources • AP