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The UN on Wednesday warned that war-torn Sudan was experiencing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that threatens to consume the entire country and region.
The conflict between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces has resulted in thousands of deaths and forced more than five million people from their homes. About a million of the displaced have fled to neighbouring countries, including Egypt, South Sudan and Chad.
“What we're clearly witnessing in Sudan is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions,” the UN's humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told a high-level ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
“If urgent international action is not taken, the crisis threatens to deteriorate into a catastrophe that could engulf – will engulf – the entire country and then the region.”
Mr Griffiths said that allowing the situation to descend into a full-blown civil war would be a “human tragedy”.
He stressed the importance of a well-co-ordinated, worldwide effort to deliver life-saving assistance and sought guarantees of “unrestricted access to those in need.”
Sudan descended into turmoil in mid-April as long-simmering tension between the military, under the leadership of Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, and the RSF, led by Gen Mohamed Dagalo, erupted into full-scale conflict.
Gen Al Burhan is scheduled to travel to New York on Wednesday to deliver a speech at the UN General Assembly.
Wednesday's meeting, convened by the UN, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the EU and the African Union, aims to urge member states to provide more support for humanitarian response plans in Sudan and the region.
The UN Humanitarian Response Plan for Sudan requires $2.6 billion to help 18 million people until the end of this year. It is less than one third funded.
According to the UN, more than 1,200 children under the age of five have died in nine camps in Sudan in the past five months due to a deadly combination of measles and malnutrition.
“Sudan is now home to the highest number of internally displaced people in the world … These numbers will keep growing as long as the guns keep talking,” said Rosemary Di Carlo, undersecretary general for political and peacebuilding affairs.
She warned the conflict, now in its sixth month, is spreading and leading to the increased fragmentation of the country.
“The warring parties are not operating in a vacuum. The conflict is being fuelled by cross-border mobilisation, including along tribal lines, as well as the movement of fighters and the flow of weapons and ammunition from outside the country,” said Ms Di Carlo.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan called for an immediate end to all hostilities and underscored the need for a comprehensive humanitarian response to address immediate needs while keeping an eye on helping to establish peace and security in Sudan.
“We will continue our efforts aimed at reaching a sustainable political solution, which ushers in a more peaceful and prosperous future for Sudan,” he said.
The Saudi Foreign Minister pledged $100 million in direct humanitarian support and stated that Riyadh would also be launching a public donation campaign.
The Inter-Agency Working Group for the East and Central Africa region expressed significant apprehension regarding the sluggishness of the global response. saying it “remains grossly underfunded”
“It is critical that we urgently release additional funding to humanitarian organisations working on the ground,” a statement from the body read.