War in Sudan fuelling humanitarian emergency of 'epic proportions'

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths says protracted conflict will lead to a lost generation of children

A girl prepares food at a camp for displaced people in Al Suwar, about 15km north of Wad Madani in Sudan. AFP
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The ongoing war in Sudan is fuelling a humanitarian emergency of "epic proportions", the UN said on Friday.

"This viral conflict – and the hunger, disease and displacement left in its wake – now threatens to consume the entire country," Martin Griffiths, the UN's top humanitarian official, said in a statement.

At least 5,000 people have been killed since fighting between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the army broke out in mid April. About 4.6 million have been forced to leave their homes, of whom more than one million people, including 470,000 children, have fled to neighbouring countries, UN figures show.

"A long conflict will almost certainly lead to a lost generation of children as millions miss out on education, endure trauma, and bear the physical and psychological scars of war," Mr Griffiths said.

"The longer the fighting continues, the more devastating its impact. Some places have already run out of food. Hundreds of thousands of children are severely malnourished and at imminent risk of death if left untreated."

Torrential rains, which have destroyed hundreds of homes, are also making conditions ripe for vector-borne diseases and further isolating people from humanitarian assistance.

"Cases of measles, malaria, whooping cough, dengue fever, and acute watery diarrhoea are being reported across the country. Most people have no access to medical treatment. The conflict has decimated the healthcare sector, with most hospitals out of service," Mr Griffiths said.

Dr Amna Gasim is a specialist at the Albolouk paediatric hospital, the only one in service in the entire Khartoum state where at least 70 per cent of hospitals are no longer operational.

"The hospital is constantly receiving many patients from Omdurman, Khartoum and Bahri with a large number of cases with malaria and an increase in malnutrition due to the rainfall and stagnant water," she told The National.

"We are struggling with maintaining the basic necessities like clean water and electricity," she said. The Albolouk hospital is currently being supported by the Sudanese American Physicians Association.

Dr Gasim says the security and overall living conditions in the capital are so bad that some patients do not want to go home.

"Some patients, who have recovered, have families that are refusing to go home because they've found a place with shelter and food for their children," she said.

Dr Gasim said the hospital has already lost members of staff to shelling in the area.

Updated: August 25, 2023, 12:22 PM