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Sudan has ‘fallen over the edge’, rights groups warn in a plea for help ahead of UN General Assembly

  • Six million people in Sudan are on the verge of famine.
  • Only 26% of the needed R48.83 billion aid funding has been made available.
  • The UN envoy to Sudan has been instructed to leave the country for criticising the government.

More than 50 human rights groups mostly operating in Africa are calling for attention for war-torn Sudan, as world leaders are set to gather in New York for the United Nations 78th General Assembly.

Tragedies in first Morocco and then Libya drew a flurry of aid this week, with tens of thousands of people in dire need of immediate help.

But in Sudan, things are going from bad to worse, and the humanitarians fear a lack of focus will allow the war to drag on.

That war, between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) of the de facto head of state, General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo is now in its fifth month, and has done enormous harm to civilians.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the conflict and associated atrocities have spread to the western region of Darfur and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

HRW said civilians are facing deliberate attacks, sexual violence is rising, and those trying to report the horrors – journalists and human rights defenders – are being silenced.

The situation has become more fragile for the civilian population, which is caught in a fight between two mafia warlords.

Almost all countries that had embassies in Sudan have left. The UN stayed put, until the government gave Volker Perthes, the UN’s envoy for Sudan, a four-month notice to leave the country.

Briefing the UN Security Council last week, Perthes said: “This conflict is leaving a tragic legacy of human rights abuses. Indiscriminate attacks against civilians committed by the warring parties constitute gross violations of human rights.”

He blamed both sides of the war.

By the UN’s numbers, 5 000 people have been killed, and 12 000 injured, while more than a million have been forced into exile in neighbouring countries.

Six million people are on the verge of famine, and over 20 million people, or 42% of the total population, are suffering from severe food insecurity. 

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Hundreds of children have perished from starvation. 

Eighty percent of the country’s biggest hospitals are currently closed as a result of complaints about clinics and doctors across the nation. 

In a joint statement, the human rights groups said Sudan has “fallen over the edge” and that “mediation efforts have not deterred Sudan’s warring parties from continuing to commit egregious abuses”.

The human rights groups in their statement suggested “a more unified approach that better represents the voices and perspectives of Sudan’s civilians, including women, youth, and representatives from the historically marginalised periphery”.

Little funding

For their part, they said they were more than prepared to call for more aid to be channelled to Sudan.

Last week, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths said humanitarian needs were soaring in Sudan while there was “critically low funding”. “Civilians need life-saving assistance now, humanitarians need access and funding to deliver it,” he said.

The approved humanitarian response plan for Sudan is worth some R50 billion, but only 26% of that fund has been raised.

The 50 human rights agencies said aid was also slow to reach affected areas because the SAF and RSF had not created safe corridors, but that should not deter aid givers.

“Sudan’s warring parties continue to undermine efforts to deliver aid safely. Donors should step up humanitarian funding, both for local and international organisations who are providing indispensable assistance in Sudan and neighbouring countries,” they said.

They also warned the UN about the mounting costs of inaction.

“The UN Security Council should move from talk to action and begin negotiations to pass a resolution that challenges the climate of impunity, reiterates that international law requires providing safe, unhindered humanitarian access, and redirects international efforts to better protect Sudan’s most vulnerable.

“The consequences of not acting are too grave to imagine.”

The UNG78 will run under the theme: Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability for all.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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