The top UN humanitarian official is visiting the Sudan region due to the rapid impact of the war and its wider fallout, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday.
The announcement came shortly after rival Sudanese forces announced the extension of a truce they have largely violated, as warplanes roared overhead and fighting continued on the ground in the Sudanese capital.
“The scale and speed of what is unfolding is unprecedented in Sudan. We are extremely concerned about the immediate and long-term impact on all people in Sudan and the wider region,” Guterres spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
He said the UN chief was “immediately” sending Martin Griffiths, his emergency relief coordinator, to the region “in light of the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Sudan”.
Deadly hostilities between the army and heavily armed paramilitaries in Khartoum and other parts of the country have entered their third week.
The last widely violated ceasefire was officially due to expire at midnight (2200 GMT) before rival forces announced a 72-hour extension which the Sudanese military said was due to “US and Saudi mediation”.
More than 500 people have been killed and tens of thousands have been forced from their homes for safer places inside the country or abroad since fighting erupted on April 15.
The fighting pits the forces of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan against his ex-deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Witnesses reported continued armed clashes on Sunday evening as well as fighter jets hovering over various parts of the capital and its twin city Omdurman, across the Nile.
The civil aviation authority announced on Sunday that Sudan’s airspace will remain closed until May 13, except for aid and evacuation flights.
“There was very heavy fighting and heavy gunfire,” a resident of southern Khartoum told AFP earlier in the day.
Complicating the battlefield further, the Central Reserve Police, a paramilitary unit, was deployed across Khartoum to “protect citizens’ properties” from looting, Sudanese police said, confirming an army statement.
Police said the Central Reserve had arrested 316 “rebels”, a reference to the RSF, which did not confirm the report and had previously warned police not to join the fight.
Last year, Washington sanctioned the Central Reserve for “serious human rights abuses” related to its use of “excessive force” against pro-democracy protests following the October 2021 coup that brought Burhan and Daglo to power.
Daglo’s RSF emerged from the Janjaweed unleashed by former strongman Omar al-Bashir in Sudan’s West Darfur region, which led to war crimes charges against Bashir and others.
With projectiles crashing into residential buildings, supplies dwindling and daily life increasingly untenable for civilians, foreign nations have rushed to evacuate their nationals by air, road and sea since the beginning of the war on April 15.
But millions of Sudanese are still trapped in the country, where aid workers are among the dead and the UN has said aid facilities have been looted, forcing a halt to all its aid operations.
“We once again urge all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, to allow safe passage for civilians fleeing areas of hostilities, to respect humanitarian workers and goods, to facilitate relief operations and to respect medical personnel, transport and facilities,” the UN spokesperson said. said Dujarric.
A first Red Cross plane brought eight tonnes of humanitarian aid from Jordan to Port-Sudan, so far spared by the fighting. The aid included surgical equipment and medical kits to stabilize 1,500 patients.
On Saturday, the health ministry said the violence had injured around 4,600 people and killed at least 528 people.
These figures are probably incomplete.
Former Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Saturday warned of the deterioration of the conflict into one of the worst civil wars in the world.
The United Nations World Food Program has warned that the unrest could push millions more into hunger in a country where 15 million people already need help to stave off starvation.
According to the World Health Organization, only 16% of health facilities are functioning in Khartoum, and many of them have been bombed.
“The situation cannot last” because medical supplies are lacking, warned Majzoub Saad Ibrahim, a doctor in Ad Damar, north of Khartoum.
An envoy from Burhan met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh on Sunday, who called for the restoration of calm in Sudan, his ministry said.
Egypt on Monday convened an Arab League meeting of its permanent delegates to discuss the “situation in Sudan”.
More than 75,000 people have been displaced inside Sudan, according to the UN, and nearly 40,000 have crossed borders, mainly into Chad but also South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic, said aid workers.
More than 5,000 people escaped safely on Saudi ships crossing the Red Sea from Port Sudan, the kingdom said.
Among them were Badriah al-Sayed, her Omani husband and their son, who joined about 50 other evacuees who reached Jeddah on Sunday on a Saudi warship.
Sayed told AFP she was grateful for their safety but couldn’t help but feel she was “losing a country”.
Britain announced on Monday it would operate an additional evacuation flight from Port Sudan, having already airlifted more than 2,000 people out of the country from an airport near Khartoum.
Canada has ended its air evacuations “due to unsafe conditions”, after transporting more than 540 people, after major airlifts by France, Germany and other countries.
Alongside the battles in the capital, the fighting, looting and lawlessness in the long-troubled Darfur region have caused particular international concern.
At least 96 people are believed to have been killed in El Geneina, West Darfur, according to the UN.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)