Panic in Sudan as food and electricity shortages increase, says ICRC

Humanitarian officials urge authorities to allow them access to civilians

Dozens of civilians killed as clashes break out in Sudan

Smoke rises in the background as a car drives along an almost deserted street in Khartoum on April 16, 2023, during ongoing fighting between the forces of 2 rival generals continues.  - Violence erupted early on April 15 after weeks of deepening tensions between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, commander of the heavily-armed paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), with each accusing the other of starting the fight.  (Photo by AFP)
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Sudanese people are increasingly fearing food and water shortages after a conflict between military factions entered the fourth day on Tuesday, humanitarian agencies said, as they called for better access to help civilians.

Fighting since Saturday has plunged the Sudanese capital of Khartoum and other areas of the country into chaos as two military generals — allies-turned-enemies — battle to take control of the country.

Millions of Sudanese have hidden in their homes, fearing the crossfire.

Sudan’s Ministry of Health Emergency Operations Centre reported 270 deaths and more than 2,600 injuries.

“It's a terrible picture, and we don't know what it will look like in the coming days,” Germain Mwehu, representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sudan, told The National.

“The building where I reside I see children crying, mothers desperate because they don’t know what they can do any more. People cannot move as its dangerous and it seems like they are running out of food.”

Mr Mwehu said he cannot leave his residence just like thousands of other Sudanese in Khartoum, so humanitarian officials cannot help civilians who are in need of medical attention.

“We are facing challenges, we don't have electricity so we depend on generators so we face the same difficulties as those living across the capital,” Mr Mwehu said.

“The ICRC today has called on all sides to stick to the basics of humanitarian law — meaning to protect civilians during armed conflict.”

Authorities must be able to “facilitate the work of humanitarian groups, to allow ambulances and health workers and those working for water and electricity sectors to move in the city,” Mr Mwehu said.

If they cannot move, there will be severe consequences on the distribution of water across the city, he added.

Nine hospitals in Khartoum have been closed after shelling or attacks by soldiers, according to the Sudanese Doctors’ Union Preliminary Committee.

Those that remain open face shortages of water and electricity, as well as medicines, including pain relief drugs.

“The responsibility and obligation is on those fighting, we just remind and call on them to abide by their obligation so that the civilians can be protected and spared during the conflict,” Mr Mwehu said.

“It’s becoming more difficult for people.”

People are attempting to leave the country through airports but find them closed or flights are cancelled.

“I got a call from a student in Khartoum University, she is a very sick lady. She's disabled and is asking for help from the Red Cross to take her from the university to her home but unfortunately we cannot do anything,” Mr Mwehu said.

For several days, smoke could be seen rising above Khartoum International Airport as fighting in the capital between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the country's armed forces increased.

Fires could be seen on the airport's tarmac, possibly complicating attempts by mediators to land in Khartoum and the delivery of humanitarian supplies.

“I stay in an area which is walking distance from the airport and the thing is Khartoum airport is located almost within the city, when there is fighting affecting the airport it affects everyone” Mr Mwehu said.

“And the fighting is going on right now in the area while I'm on the phone to you.”

The ICRC's call echoed those of other aid groups urging both sides to end the violence.

Care International said that it is deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Sudanese communities, especially women and girls.

“Women and girls are disproportionately affected by violence especially when they are forced to flee from their homes and communities. This leaves them vulnerable to further harm,” Kate Maina-Vorley, Care International regional director for East, and Central Africa, said in a statement.

“Sudan is currently facing a humanitarian crisis with more than 15 million people in need of assistance,” Ms Maina-Vorley.

“We call on all parties to ensure that all civilians, especially women, and girls, are protected from all forms of violence and exploitation,” she said.

The calls were reiterated by the World Health Organisation, who urged authorities to provide access to medical facilities to all those requiring care.

“I want to be very clear: All parties must ensure unrestricted and safe access to health facilities for those injured and everyone in need of medical care,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Dr Tedros said that medical supplies and personnel in the capital are running low.

Updated: April 19, 2023, 4:52 AM