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Clashes intensified across Sudan on Monday, as top UN officials urged rival military factions to protect civilians and respect the country’s international obligations.
“I strongly condemn the outbreak of fighting that is taking place in Sudan and appeal to the leaders of the Rapid Support Forces (RAF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) to immediately cease hostilities, restore calm, and begin a dialogue to resolve the crisis,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday.
Following the deaths of three employees of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in the restive Darfur region amid widespread fighting, he called for those responsible to be brought to justice without delay.
“The situation has already led to horrendous loss of life, including many civilians,” the UN chief said, ahead of delivering opening remarks at a UN Forum on Financing for Development.
Urging all those with influence over the deteriorating situation to press for peace, and support efforts to end the violence, restore order, and return to the path of transition, he warned that “any further escalation could be devastating for the country and region”.
The crisis began with armed clashes on Saturday, between forces from the SAF, loyal to the head of the military government, and those of his deputy, who leads the paramilitary RAF.
Skirmishes led to widespread fighting between RSF and SAF forces across the capital Khartoum and surrounding areas.
Since then, more than 83 people have been killed and more than 1,126 people injured across Khartoum, South Kordofan, North Darfur, Northern State and other regions, with the heaviest concentration of fighting taking place in Khartoum, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement released on Sunday.
“Movement in the city is restricted due to the insecurity, creating challenges for doctors, nurses, patients and ambulances to reach health facilities, and putting at risk the lives of those who need urgent medical care,” WHO said, calling for protecting health workers and patients and urging parties to respect the neutrality of healthcare.
Media reports said fighter jets had fired multiple rockets on Sunday into Khartoum, home to more than 6 million people, and that the RSF had claimed that it had taken control of Khartoum international airport, Merowe airport, al-Obeid airport and the presidential palace in the capital.
An independent Sudanese military force, the RSF evolved from the Janjaweed militia, formerly active in Sudan’s Darfur region, and has been involved in talks aimed at a transition to a civilian government from the military rule in place since the 2021 military coup.
UN chief Guterres said the already precarious humanitarian situation in Sudan is “now catastrophic”.
The UN food agency estimates that one third of Sudan’s population, or some 15 million people, face acute food insecurity. Meanwhile, WFP’s operations in the country are temporarily on hold, as the agency said that threats to its teams make it impossible for them to operate safely and effectively.
“I am appalled and heartbroken by the tragic deaths of three WFP employees on Saturday 15 April in violence in Kabkabiya, North Darfur while carrying out their life-saving duties on the front lines of the global hunger crisis,” said WFP chief Cindy McCain in a statement on Sunday.
“Any loss of life in humanitarian service is unacceptable and I demand immediate steps to guarantee the safety of those who remain,” she urged. “Aid workers are neutral and should never be a target. Threats to our teams make it impossible to operate safely and effectively in the country and carry out WFP’s critical work.”
Condemning the deaths and injuries to civilians and humanitarian workers and the targeting and looting of premises, Guterres reminded all parties of the need to respect international law, including ensuring the safety and security of all UN and associated personnel, and humanitarian aid workers.
“I am engaging with leaders across the region,” he said, reaffirming that the UN stands with the people of Sudan at this very difficult time, with full support for their efforts to restore the democratic transition and build a peaceful, secure future.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Volker Perthes, said in a statement early on Monday that he remains engaged with the Sudanese, regional and international partners to work towards ending the fighting.
He expressed disappointment that a UN-brokered humanitarian ceasefire was only “partially” honoured on Sunday. He urged all parties to respect their international obligations, including to ensure the protection of all civilians.
WHO warned that supplies it distributed to health facilities prior to the recent escalation of conflict “are now exhausted”.
Many of the nine hospitals in Khartoum receiving injured civilians are reporting shortages of blood, transfusion equipment, intravenous fluids, medical supplies and other life-saving commodities, WHO said.
Reports indicate shortages of specialised medical personnel, and water and electricity cuts are affecting operations at health facilities, while hospital generators are running short of fuel, WHO said.
As the situation evolves, WHO will continue to work with partners and health authorities to fill gaps in the provision of healthcare, especially for trauma care, while also ensuring the safety of staff and their families, the agency said.
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