Number of displaced people in Sudan doubles to 700,000 in a week

UN says another five million are in need of aid after more than three weeks of violence

Sudanese refugees fleeing the violence in the western Darfur Region cross the border into Chad. Reuters
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The number of people displaced in Sudan has doubled in a week from 340,000 to 700,000, the UN migration agency said on Tuesday.

This huge increase reported by the International Organisation for Migration comes despite efforts to bring the warring Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces to the negotiating table through Saudi-brokered talks in Jeddah.

According to UN estimates an additional five million people will require humanitarian aid, bringing the total to 21 million people since the conflict began on the April 15.

More than 600 people have been killed and 5,000 injured, since the violence broke out on April 15, according to the World Health Organisation. Many of those are civilians.

Non-governmental organisation the Sudan's Doctors' Union said there were people still uncounted for because of logistical difficulties and security concerns.

The group also highlighted problems faced by hospitals, including in the western city of Geneina, in West Darfur.

“Hospitals and health facilities in Geneina are still out of service to this moment,” the union said on Monday.

Meanwhile, officials reported that negotiations between the warring parties have so far failed to achieve a breakthrough.

“No major progress” has been made at the talks in Jeddah, where the warring sides have sent representatives, a Saudi diplomat told AFP.

“A permanent ceasefire isn't on the table. Every side believes it is capable of winning the battle,” the source said.

Kholood Khair, founder of the Khartoum-based think tank Confluence Advisory, said the delegations “are there mostly to curry favour with the Saudis and the Americans, rather than to credibly use this platform as a means to reach an agreement”.

Several ceasefires have been breached as both sides compete for military gain.

As the humanitarian crisis in Sudan grows, officials have warned that the aid operation in Sudan remains severely underfunded — particularly compared to that in Ukraine, following Russia's invasion last year.

“The only fully funded operation in the world now is in Ukraine. All other operations are catastrophically underfunded,” said Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

On Tuesday, the UN agency that responds to natural disasters said that several UN facilities have been looted.

“Yesterday, a World Food Programme facility — the main one that houses food stocks in Khartoum — were looted,” said United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokeswoman Eri Kaneko.

She added that facilities in the Sudanese capital belonging to OCHA and UN children's agency Unicef had also been looted.

A third of the country needed aid before the recent crisis, said Ms Kaneko.

Last week, senior UN aid envoy Yemen Martin Griffiths visited the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, from where many people are leaving the country.

Mr Griffiths then landed in Jeddah where talks are continuing.

Ms Kaneko said that Mr Griffiths spoke to the opposing leaders — Sudanese army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and Gen Mohamed Dagalo, who leads the RSF — and is hopeful of a “positive response” for humanitarian guarantees from both sides.

“Martin's message in Port Sudan was to ensure that workers are not attacked. We're not asking for the moon just basic guarantees to deliver aid to those who need it.”

Ms Kaneko said OCHA was already running low on funds before the recent fighting broke out and is now in need of funds “now more than ever”.

She said that impact on children is “unfathomable”, expressing a concern for attacks on healthcare facilities.

“Our colleagues in the WHO said that there were at least 28 attacks on health facilities in Sudan.”

On Monday, the UAE sent three transport aircraft carrying 115 tonnes of vital medical and food supplies to Sudan and neighbouring Chad, where some refugees have fled.

The UAE has delivered more than 240 tonnes of medical and food aid to Sudan since the fighting began.

Updated: May 09, 2023, 3:55 PM