Aid situation worsens as Sudan fighting spreads

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Desperately needed relief supplies are being confiscated by the warring parties in Sudan as fighting spreads to areas previously untouched by the 10-week-old conflict between top generals, aid agencies said on Friday.

Demonstrations in support of the regular army were held Friday in greater Khartoum and in White Nile state to its south as civilians gave vent to their anger at the widespread requisition of private homes by the rival paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), witnesses said.

The battle for power between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy, RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, has killed more than 2,000 people since April 15, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

Greater Khartoum and the flashpoint western region of Darfur have been the main battlegrounds so far but this week residents reported a flare-up of fighting in the Kordofan region, scene of another long-running rebellion.

On Friday, witnesses reported renewed artillery exchanges and street-fighting in Khartoum, as well as “clashes between the army and the RSF” in North Kordofan state, hundreds of kilometres (miles) to its south.

The United Nations says a record 25 million people — more than half of Sudan’s population — are in need of aid and protection.

While some relief supplies have trickled in, aid agencies report almost insurmountable hurdles to their work.

“Blatant restrictions on entry into Sudan for humanitarian workers and aid supplies are leaving millions in need stranded,” according to the Norwegian Refugee Council’s William Carter.

Doctors without Border (MSF) reported similar hurdles. Permits have been “delayed, rejected, rescinded, or plainly not respected,” while “supplies have been confiscated” and staff “beaten and violently threatened” by armed groups, it said.

Two-thirds of health facilities in the main battlegrounds remain out of service, according to the Sudanese doctors’ union, which says medical personnel have been targeted amid widespread violations against civilians.

At least 36 cases of sexual violence have been recorded in Khartoum alone by the governmental Combating Violence Against Women and Children Unit, with the majority of survivors accusing RSF fighters.

“Reported and documented cases are no more than two percent of real figures,” the unit said, adding that they have not been able to assess the case total in the western region of Darfur, “where the situation is getting worse every day”.

Diplomatic efforts to broker a halt to the fighting are at a standstill after both sides violated the last, 72-hour ceasefire, which ended on Wednesday.

The United States, which brokered the truce along with Saudi Arabia, said Thursday it had put its mediation efforts on hold.

“On Wednesday, yesterday, we adjourned those talks because the format is not succeeding in the way that we want,” US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Those ceasefires have not been fully effective, although they have allowed the transmittal of important, urgently needed humanitarian assistance,” she said.

Analysts have criticised Washington’s handling of the ceasefire talks in the Saudi city of Jeddah, which they said were doomed to fail.

“If Jeddah was the triage station before the emergency room, the duty doctors didn’t diagnose the patient before setting to work,” said Sudan specialist Alex de Waal

He said that the sanctions imposed by Washington on both sides after the collapse of a previous ceasefire at the start of the month would not work either, “until the mediators have fastened onto a strategy.”

In the meantime, “Sudan is bleeding to death.”

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