The United Nations has called an emergency Security Council meeting on the fighting in Sudan, which has displaced an estimated one million people since it broke out a month ago.
Nearly 850,000 people have been displaced internally and 250,000 have fled across Sudan’s borders since fighting broke out between Sudan’s military and a rival paramilitary force.
More than half of Sudan’s population is also in need of aid and protection, according to UN estimates.
A spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Sudan, Leni Kinzli, told RFI that fighting is still ongoing in the capital, Khartoum, where the conflict erupted.
“Nineteen million people could face hunger in the coming months, so the situation is extremely challenging, while it was already a disaster before the conflict,” Kinzli said.
“For us, now, in terms of this Security Council meeting, the most important [outcome] is to ensure the security of our staff, so we can carry on our operations.”
WFP had to stop food distributions three weeks ago, then to relocate its staff to Port Sudan, on the Red Sea.
They resumed food distribution from there two weeks ago.
“But the fighting makes it very difficult to operate and the numbers of internally displaced people and refugees keep growing,” Kinzli added.
The UN initiative comes as the warring factions signed an agreement on Saturday for a seven-day ceasefire.
It will take effect at 9.45pm Khartoum time on Monday.
The agreement will be enforced by a US-Saudi and international-supported monitoring mechanism, said a statement issued after the deal was signed.
During the ceasefire, both sides will allow the distribution of humanitarian assistance and withdrawing forces from hospitals and essential public facilities.
“It is past time to silence the guns and allow unhindered humanitarian access,” said the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“I implore both sides to uphold this agreement — the eyes of the world are watching.”
The UN’s aid chief denounced breaches of an agreement by Sudan’s warring parties last week to spare civilians and infrastructure and to let badly needed aid in.
Martin Griffiths, heading OCHA’s efforts in the region, told the French news agency AFP: “There are breaches of the declaration … which are important and egregious, and which have happened since the signing.”
Aid for displaced people
On Friday, the US promised just over 100 million euros for Sudan and neighbouring countries to support displaced people.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that about 220,000 people have fled from Sudan – north to Egypt, or west to Chad, which borders Darfur, but also to South Sudan.
Others have headed to Port Sudan, hoping to catch boats to Saudi Arabia.
Samantha Power, head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), announced the assistance on a visit to Chad, which is hosting more than 600,000 refugees, mostly from Sudan.
Some 50 million euros of the total will be allocated to address needs inside Sudan, while around 22 million euros will go to South Sudan, 17 million to Chad and 6 million to Egypt.
Samantha Power arrived in Chad, where she’ll meet Sudanese refugees who fled fighting in Sudan
Administrator Samantha Power arrived today in #Chad, where she’ll meet #Sudanese refugees who fled fighting in #Sudan, local officials coordinating the humanitarian response & humanitarian partners providing life-saving assistance. #lلسودlن https://t.co/bJxOZdACsM @USEmbassyKRT— USAID Sudan (@USAIDSudan) May 18, 2023
Humanitarian needs spiral
Officials have recorded 676 deaths and more than 5,500 injuries, but the real toll is expected to be much higher.
There have been reports of bodies left in the streets and people struggling to bury the dead.
According to OCHA, almost 25 million people need help, compared to 15 million before the start of the conflict.
As the conflict in Sudan enters its second month, 24.7 million people need humanitarian aid and protection.
As the conflict in Sudan enters its second month, 24.7 million people need humanitarian aid and protection.This is the highest number we have ever seen in the country.Our revised Humanitarian Response Plan:https://t.co/vyHQNKIX1X pic.twitter.com/swjXL2eU1j— UN OCHA Sudan (@UNOCHA_Sudan) May 18, 2023
The UN recently revised its 2023 Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) as the conflict causes needs to spiral.
Last week, the agencies said that the Sudan HRP now requires 2.36 billion euros to help 18 million people until the end of this year, an increase of 800 million from just a few months ago.
On 23 May, the UN Security Council will also discuss the protection of civilians in armed conflict, food insecurity and protecting essential services.