GENEVA (AP) — Twenty United Nations agencies and other international organizations called Tuesday for peace, access to humanitarian support and respect for human rights in Sudan, where a war that has led to deaths, sexual violence and food shortages reached the four-month mark.
Sudan was plunged into chaos in April when months of simmering tensions between the military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, exploded into open fighting in Khartoum and elsewhere.
Since then, the U.N and rights groups have accused both the military and the RSF of numerous human rights violations. The warring parties have rejected the accusations.
World Health Organization spokesperson Margaret Harris appealed to the global community to do more to ease the suffering of Darfur’s people, saying at a U.N. briefing in Geneva: “The world is ignoring the dire needs.”
In western Sudan’s Darfur region, the scene of a genocidal war in the early 2000s, the latest fighting has also morphed into ethnic violence, with the RSF and allied Arab militias targeting African communities, U.N. officials say.
Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, has been reduced to an urban battlefield. Across the city, RSF forces have commandeered homes and turned them into operational bases, residents and doctors’ groups say. The army, in turn, has struck residential areas from the air and ground with artillery fire.
U.N. agencies specializing in health, migration, refugees, human rights and food were among the organizations highlighting the crisis in Sudan, saying their two appeals for financial support totaling more than $3 billion were less than 27% funded.
The war is estimated to have killed at least 4,000 people, according to Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the U.N. human rights office. Activists and doctors on the ground say the death toll is likely far higher.
The war has displaced more than 4.3 million people, including some 3.2 million within the country, said William Spindler, a spokesperson for the UNHCR refugee agency.
The U.N. has documented at least 28 incidents of rape, Throssel said, but that is believed to be fewer than the actual number.
Earlier this month, Amnesty International accused both sides of committing extensive war crimes, including deliberate killings of civilians and mass sexual assault. The group said almost all rape cases were blamed on the RSF and its allied Arab militias.
The U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator said its appeal for $2.57 billion for aid into Sudan has received only $651 million, while UNHCR said its appeal for $566 million has brought in just under $175 million.
“For four gruesome months, the people of Sudan have been engulfed in a war that is destroying their lives and their homeland and violating their basic human rights,” leaders of the organizations said in a joint statement.
“People are dying because they cannot access health care services and medicine. And now, because of the war, Sudan’s children are wasting away for lack of food and nutrition,” it said.
A recent uptick in violence in South Darfur state has made aid deliveries to the remote area difficult, said David MacDonald, aid group Care International’s country director for Sudan.
Dozens were killed in the Kubum area of the state last week during a raid by Arab tribesmen in RSF vehicles, a Sudanese legal group said.
Previous attempts to halt the violence failed. There have been at least nine cease-fire agreements between the warring parties, brokered largely by Washington and Riyadh in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah during May and June, but all foundered.
Jeffery reported from Cairo.