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Sudan fighting rages as nearly 8 million displaced, 18 million face 'acute hunger'

The humanitarian crisis in Sudan has reached catastrophic levels, according to the United Nations, as mediators struggle to enforce a cease-fire.
A young Sudanese receives a vaccine shot in Sudan's eastern state of Gedaref on January 22, 2024, during a vaccination campaign against the measles and rubella virus. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

The bloody fighting between rival forces in Sudan continues to rage amid dire humanitarian conditions and as the number of displaced persons approached nearly 8 million since the civil war broke out last year.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) sounded the alarm over the lack of access to life-saving humanitarian assistance by millions of people, saying it had received reports of people dying from starvation.

In a press release published on Friday, WFP warned that the number of hungry in Sudan had doubled over the past year, adding that almost 18 million people across the country now face acute hunger and about 5 million suffer from emergency levels of hunger due to the fighting in some areas, including in Darfur, Khartoum and Kordofan.

“The situation in Sudan today is nothing short of catastrophic. Millions of people are impacted by the conflict,” the statement quoted Eddie Rowe, WFP representative and country director in Sudan, as saying.

The organization said it is currently able to deliver aid to just 1 in 10 people experiencing emergency levels of hunger.

“WFP has food in Sudan, but lack of humanitarian access and other unnecessary hurdles are slowing operations and preventing us from getting vital aid to the people who most urgently need our support,” Rowe warned.

The UN agency called on the parties to the conflict to urgently ensure “safe and unimpeded delivery” of food deliveries to the conflict-hit areas.

More than 12,000 people have been killed since the war between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) broke out in April 2023. The conflict has also created one of the world’s worst displacement crises, with, as noted, nearly 8 million people forced to flee their homes for elsewhere in Sudan or to neighboring countries, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

UNHCR reported the alarming figure after its chief, Filippo Grandi, UN high commissioner for refugees, this week concluded a three-day visit to Ethiopia, where he inspected the Ethiopian government’s efforts to assist Sudanese refugees.

Since April 2023, more than 100,000 people have crossed into Ethiopia from Sudan, according to the UNCHR.

“I heard stories of heartbreaking loss of family, friends, homes and livelihoods in the midst of this despair,” said Grandi, in a statement on Wednesday.

“Without further donor support, it will be extremely difficult to deliver much-needed help to those who need it most,” he added, calling for “urgent and additional support” to those affected.

Mediation talks

Meanwhile, attempts to mediate an end of the hostilities have faltered.

Representatives of the SAF and RSF met twice in Jeddah last year, in May and October, for Saudi- and US-mediated talks. The second round of talks was suspended in December after the two parties deadlocked over certain demands, including the withdrawal of RSF fighters from the capital, Khartoum.

Following the collapse of the Jeddah talks, senior leaders of the Sudanese rivals reportedly met in Bahrain, last month, the first high-level contact between the two sides since the war began.

Four sources, including two who attended the talks, told Reuters on Wednesday that Gen. Shamseldin Kabbashi, representing the SAF, and Gen. Abdelrahim Dagalo, a brother of RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, met in Manama three times in January. Officials from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as well as the United States and Saudi Arabia also took part in the talks.

According to one of the sources, the two sides tentatively agreed on a declaration of principles, including preserving the unity of Sudan and its army. A meeting to discuss a cease-fire was scheduled to take place last week, but was postponed, the source said, without providing further details.