Sudan faces catastrophic crisis as world looks away, aid agencies say

GENEVA — United Nations and international agencies warn that the lives of millions of people in Sudan are at risk as the world looks away from the enormous humanitarian needs facing the war-torn country. 

Sudan has endured a year of war, which humanitarian agencies agree is causing one of the world’s worst human-made disasters. The World Health Organization said, “The war has had a staggering human cost,” with more than 15,000 deaths and an estimated 33,000 people injured. 

“The number of casualties reported is likely an underestimate,” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told journalists in Geneva Friday. 

“We also expect there will be more deaths across the entire population due to displacement, disease outbreaks and the inability to access care for other health issues, maternal and newborn health needs, and lack of access to food and water,” Lindmeier said. 

According to a new report by the International Organization for Migration, 20,000 people, half of them children, are forced to flee their homes in Sudan each day. 

Since war erupted a year ago on April 15, the IOM said, more than 8.6 million people have been displaced — about 6.6 million inside Sudan and 1.8 million as refugees in neighboring countries. 

Amy Pope, the IOM director-general, said, “Sudan is on a tragically fast track to becoming one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises in decades, and the conflict that has engulfed the country is creating pressure throughout the region.” 

The World Health Organization also warned that Sudan could soon become one of the world’s worst hunger crises because nearly 18 million people are suffering from acute hunger and 5 million more are on the brink of famine. 

And yet, WHO spokesperson Lindmeier said, “This is only the tip of the iceberg” of an increasingly desperate situation. 

“Time is running out. Without a stop to the fighting and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian aid, Sudan’s crisis will dramatically worsen in the months to come and could impact the whole region,” he said 

“Access for humanitarian actors is particularly constrained. Half of the states are not accessible from within Sudan. Darfur and Kordofan are inaccessible and cut off from humanitarian aid.” 

Sudan’s national army and the rival Rapid Support Forces militia began fighting on April 15, 2023, each seeking to control the government. The two sides have made it difficult for aid groups and relief supplies to reach civilians. 

“The situation in Sudan was already very fragile before the war, and it has now become catastrophic,” said Ozan Agbas, Medecins Sans Frontieres Emergency Operations Manager for Sudan. 

In a statement issued Friday, he said “In many of the areas where MSF has started emergency activities we have not seen the return of the international humanitarian organizations that initially evacuated in April.” 

MSF, which is also known as Doctors Without Borders, has accused the world of “turning a blind eye as the warring parties intentionally block humanitarian access and the delivery of aid,” thereby putting millions of people at risk. 

In the runup to the first anniversary of the conflict in Sudan, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is urging the warring parties to support a cease-fire and engage in dialogue “for the sake of humanity, for the people and children who are suffering.” 

Speaking in Mombasa, Kenya, IFRC Head of Delegation Farid Abdulkadir described the enormous toll the war has taken on the lives and livelihoods of the Sudanese people. 

He said that the conflict has shattered the basic fabric of everyday life across Sudan and that the country’s health system has collapsed and is unable to care for the population. 

“Vital infrastructure is destroyed; professionals across all sectors have lost everything. While over 700,000 children are at risk of being malnourished, the humanitarian consequence of the conflict is dire,” he said. 

“But worst of all is the people’s engagement in livelihood and food production, which has both an impact now and an impact in the future,” 

A report issued by the U.N. Development Program on Friday assesses the social and economic impacts of the armed conflict on rural communities. 

The UNDP study surveyed more than 4,500 rural households across Sudan, concluding that the country faces an accelerating food security crisis. 

It says food production and supply chains “have been disrupted by the ongoing war” and warns “that a famine in Sudan is expected in 2024,” particularly in the states of Khartoum and Al-Jazirah and in the Darfur and Kordofan regions. 

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