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Fears Sudan crisis may spread

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Food distributions in Tuneybah camp, Gedaref State. The United Nations has warned that the humanitarian crisis triggered by the conflict in Sudan could worsen dramatically in the coming months, tipping some regions into famine, the writer says. – Picture: WFP

By AFP

The United Nations (UN) has warned that the humanitarian crisis triggered by the conflict in Sudan could worsen dramatically in the coming months, tipping some regions into famine.

The emergency could also further spill into neighbouring African countries unless the fighting ends, UN agencies said, before tomorrow’s first anniversary of the conflict erupting.

“Time is running out,” said World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesperson Christian Lindmeier.

“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 in terms of more refugees, the spread of disease and food insecurity,” he told reporters in Geneva.

“We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Fighting in Sudan broke out on April 15 last year between the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

In a year, the war has killed many thousands, including up to 15,000 in one West Darfur town, according to UN experts. It has also pushed the country of 48 million people to the brink of famine, devastated already fragile infrastructure and driven more than 8.5 million people from their homes, escaping across the country’s borders.

The WHO warned of a collapsing health system, with acute shortages of staff, medicines, vaccines, equipment and supplies.

Lindmeier said 70 percent to 80 percent of Sudanese health facilities were not functioning due to the fighting. “Some states, such as Darfur, have not received medical supplies for the past year,” Lindmeier said.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Food Policy Research Institute released a report following a survey of 4 ,504 rural households in Sudan between November and January.

Thair Shraideh, the UNDP resident representative in Sudan, said the country – where two-thirds live in rural areas – was plunging into “an accelerating food security crisis”.

“The study warns that a famine in Sudan is expected in 2024, particularly in the states of Khartoum, Al-Jazira, and in the Darfur and Kordofan regions,” he said by video-link from Brussels.

He pointed to production and supply chains having been disrupted, but also to dwindling incomes and soaring inflation.

Even immediate humanitarian and food assistance “may not be enough to stave off the looming famine”, Shraideh warned.

An international humanitarian conference for Sudan and its neighbours will be held in Paris tomorrow.

It will aim to tackle a shortfall in funding, with only 6 percent of the estimated $2.7 billion needed to address the crisis having been raised so far.

The Sudanese foreign ministry, which has remained largely loyal to the regular army in its year-old conflict with paramilitaries, on Friday slammed its exclusion from an aid conference.

Neither of the warring parties has been invited to the donors’ meeting.

The ministry “expressed its deep astonishment and outrage that this conference on the affairs of Sudan, an independent sovereign state … could take place without consultation or co-ordination with its government”.

It hit out at the French government for hosting the talks, saying its “behaviour represents a gross disregard for … the principle of state sovereignty”.

France has invited government officials from Sudan’s neighbours, Sudanese civilian leaders and international aid groups, but neither of the warring parties.

The ministry condemned conference organisers for excluding both sides, accusing them of “equating the legitimate government and the national army on the one hand with a multinational terrorist militia”.

What is left of Sudan’s foreign ministry has moved offices to the Red Sea city of Port Sudan since the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces largely overran the capital Khartoum and its sister cities in the early stages of the war.

Mediation efforts by the US and its regional ally Saudi Arabia have been stalled for months although the US special envoy for Sudan, Tom Perriello, expressed hope on Thursday that the Paris aid conference could help kickstart resumed talks.

Perriello said that Saudi Arabia had committed to hosting a new round of talks and that the United States hoped to announce the date soon.

Meanwhile, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the situation in Sudan was a “colossal, man-made catastrophe” and the international response had been negligible.

In a statement, it urged the UN to “show more boldness in the face of this enormous crisis”, saying humanitarian aid should have increased in the accessible areas.

Ozan Agbas, MSF emergency operations manager for Sudan, said that the UN and its partners’ “self-imposed restrictions” were preventing them from intervening “when opportunities arise”.

Farid Abdulkadir of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) called on the warring parties to “look at the humanitarian consequences of their actions” and call for a ceasefire.

“The Sudanese people have suffered enough,” the IFRC head of delegation in Sudan said. – AFP