STORY: Sudan Update: OCHA - WHO - ICRC - UNHCR
SOURCE: UNTV CH
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
RELEASE DATE: 25 April 2023
“The people of Sudan, already deeply affected by humanitarian needs, are staring into the abyss,” says OCHA
The United Nations and humanitarian agencies today have confirmed their commitment to continue to deliver most essential relief items for the Sudanese population amid the ongoing fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
“In areas where intense fighting has hampered our humanitarian operations, we have been forced to reduce our footprint, but we are committed to continue to deliver for the people of Sudan,” stressed Jens Laerke, Spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) when talking to the media at the United Nations in Geneva. Mr. Laerke said that a humanitarian hub is being established in Port Sudan.
“There are now acute shortages of food, water, medicines and fuel and limited communications and electricity,” Mr. Laerke said. “The price of essential items as well as transport are skyrocketing. The people of Sudan, already deeply affected by humanitarian needs, are staring into the abyss.”
Nearly 16 million people in Sudan were already in need of humanitarian assistance prior to the escalation of violence, owing to drought and malnutrition. Now humanitarian actors are deeply concerned about the impact of fighting that erupted 10 days ago in Sudan, amid reports of looting humanitarian supplies and warehouses.
Although Sudan’s warring factions agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire starting on Tuesday, fighting reportedly broke out in Geneina in West Darfur between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
“The news of the ceasefire is extremely encouraging as long as it holds, as you know, all initiatives of that sort are very, very much welcome in a context where we know that families that we have spoken to in Khartoum have not moved out of their house since the last 8 days and very, very few movements of population within the capital,” said Patrick Youssef, Regional Director for Africa of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The World Health Organization (WHO) has verified 14 attacks on health services since the violence began on 15 April, with 8 deaths and 2 injuries.
Speaking from Khartoum, Dr. Nima Saeed Abid, WHO representative in Sudan, said that civilian deaths and injuries continue to rise. “The casualties reported from the only 25 remaining functional facilities so far is 4,075 injuries, 459 deaths, but as I said this is really much under-reporting – the actual number is much higher than this number.”
The WHO representative quoted figures released by Sudan’s Federal Ministry of Health.
WHO and the government health authorities are disturbed about ongoing outbreaks of dengue and malaria, as well as a looming cholera alert amid damage to water infrastructure.
Dr. Abid shared his worries about the occupation of the National Public Health Laboratory by one of the parties involved in the fighting where trained laboratory technicians no longer have access to the laboratory. With power cuts, it is not possible to properly preserve the biological materials that are stored in the laboratory for medical purposes, the WHO official explained.
Condemning attacks on health centres, ICRC’s Patrick Youssef insisted that “international law is more practical than on paper and in the Geneva Conventions”. He said that “it is about giving very clear instructions to the field commanders on what needs to be preserved, and not what needs to be done, meaning a hospital in ‘location A’ has to be ‘preserved’, meaning it needs to be neutralized either by indicative signs like we put on our own ICRC offices and convoys for protection.”
The escalating violence also caused large population displacement. As thousands are fleeing the violence into safer zones and neighboring countries, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is working with partners and governments in the region to assess the news of the newly arrived and to prepare a joint response.
“So far the most significant cross-border movements in the region have been of Sudanese fleeing to Chad and South Sudanese refugees returning to South Sudan,” said UNHCR’s spokesperson Olga Sarrado. “While we have also received reports of people starting to arrive in Egypt, exact numbers are not available at this point.”
Speaking from Juba, UNHCR representative in South Sudan, Marie-Hélène Verney, said that “for the past few days, we have been seeing a marked increase in the number of South Sudanese mostly returning into South Sudan”. She added that “Four thousand is the number we have been able to interview and register but obviously there are much, much larger numbers of people who are just rushing through the border and trying to get into the country.”
Many of the new arrivals lack the means to continue their journey, which is why UNHCR is helping facilitate their onward travel, providing clean water and setting up reception centres. The agency said that overall, there are over 800,000 South Sudanese refugees in Sudan, a quarter of whom are in Khartoum and “directly affected by the fighting”.
“The needs are becoming overwhelming particularly in clean water, food, but also in telecommunication,” said Ms. Verney. “People are arriving and have been on the road from Khartoum for several days and most of them don’t have any means of communication. They want to reach their family. They want to know where to move onwards in the country.”
South Sudan is already suffering a major humanitarian crisis. The country has more than 2.3 million internally displaced people, almost 75 per cent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance and 2,2 million South Sudanese are refugees in neighboring countries.
UNHCR’s Ms. Sarrado explained that “before this crisis, Sudan hosted more than one million refugees, and 3.7 million were internally displaced. Assistance programmes that were already overstretched, are now severely hampered.” The UNHCR official added that "all of the UN agency’s operations in Sudan’s neighbouring countries impacted by this new emergency, already have existing large refugee and IDP populations, and are also severely underfunded.