UN humanitarians complete first food distribution in Khartoum as hunger, threats to children, intensify
WFP’s Country Director in Sudan, Eddie Rowe, told reporters in Geneva that in a major breakthrough, the agency distributed food assistance to 15,000 people in both Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) controlled areas of Omdurman, part of the Khartoum metropolitan area, beginning on Saturday.
Speaking from Port Sudan, Mr. Rowe highlighted other recent food distributions, in Wadi Halfa in Northern State to reach 8,000 people fleeing Khartoum and on their way to Egypt, as well as to 4,000 newly displaced people in Port Sudan.
Rapidly scaling up support
In total, WFP has been able to reach 725,000 people across 13 states in the country since it resumed its operations on 3 May, following a pause brought on by the killing of three aid workers at the start of the conflict.
Mr. Rowe said that WFP was rapidly scaling up its support, which they expected to expand depending on progress in negotiations for humanitarian access for all regions, including the Darfurs and Kordofans, strongly impacted by violence and displacement.
Hunger on the rise
In addition to the 16 million Sudanese who were already finding it “very difficult to afford a meal a day” before the fighting started, Mr. Rowe warned that the conflict compounded by the upcoming hunger season, could increase the food insecure population by about 2.5 million people in the coming months.
With the lean season fast approaching, WFP’s plan was to reach 5.9 million people across Sudan over the next six months, he said.
He stressed that WFP needed a total of $730 million to provide required assistance as well as telecommunications and logistics services to the humanitarian community, including all of the UN agencies operating in Sudan.
17,000 tonnes of food lost to looting
He also reiterated the humanitarian community’s call on all parties to the conflict to enable the safe delivery of urgently needed food aid, and deplored that so far, WFP had lost about 17,000 metric tonnes of food to widespread looting across the country, particularly in the Darfurs.
Just two days ago, he said, the agency’s main hub in El Obeid, North Kordofan, came under threat and looting of assets and vehicles was already confirmed.
Over 13 million children in need
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that “more children in Sudan today require lifesaving support than ever before”, with 13.6 million children in need of urgent assistance. “That’s more than the entire population of Sweden, of Portugal, of Rwanda,” UNICEF spokesperson James Elder told reporters in Geneva.
According to reports received by UNICEF, hundreds of girls and boys have been killed in the fighting. “While we are unable to confirm these due to the intensity of the violence, we also have reports that thousands of children have been maimed,” Mr. Elder said.
He also pointed out that reports of children killed or injured are only those who had contact with a medical facility, meaning that the reality is “no doubt much worse” and compounded by a lack of access to life-saving services including nutrition, safe water, and healthcare.
Mr. Elder alerted that “all these factors combined, risk becoming a death sentence, especially for the most vulnerable”.
UNICEF called for funding to the tune of $838 million to address the crisis, an increase of $253 million since the current conflict began in April, to reach 10 million children. Mr. Elder stressed that only 5 per cent of the required amount had been received so far, and that without the therapeutic food and vaccines which this money would allow to secure, children would be dying.
Healthcare under attack
The dire situation of healthcare in the country has been aggravated by continuing attacks on medical facilities. From the start of the conflict on 15 till 25 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) verified 45 attacks on healthcare, which led to eight deaths and 18 injuries, the agency’s spokesperson Tarik Jašarević said.
He also cited reports of military occupation of hospitals and medical supplies warehouses, which made it impossible for people in need to access chronic disease medicines or malaria treatment. Mr. Jašarević recalled that attacks on healthcare are a violation of international humanitarian law and must stop.
Keep borders open: Grandi
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, concluded a three-day visit to Egypt on Tuesday, with an urgent call for support for people fleeing Sudan – and the countries hosting them – insisting that the borders must remain open.
More than 170,000 people have entered Egypt since the conflict started – many through Qoustul, a border crossing that Grandi visited close to the end of his trip. The country hosts around half of the more than 345,000 people who have recently fled Sudan.
Mr. Grandi met newly arrived refugees and Egyptian border officials, to get a sense of the hardships being endured.
Loss ‘on a huge scale’
“I heard harrowing experiences: loss of life and property on a huge scale,” Grandi said. “People spoke of risky and expensive journeys to arrive here to safety. Many families have been torn apart. They are traumatized and urgently need our protection and support.“
The UNHCR chief also held talks with the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, and discussed how best to support refugees and mobilize resources for host countries, not least Egypt.
“I commend Egypt for its long-standing commitment to providing a safe haven to those fleeing violence,” Mr. Grandi said. “The Government, the Egyptian Red Cresent and the people, have been very generous in supporting arrivals. We urgently need to mobilize more resources to help them to maintain this generosity.”
Prior to this conflict, Egypt was already host to a large refugee population of 300,000 people from 55 different nationalities.
After registering with UNHCR, refugees and asylum-seekers have access to a wide range of services including health and education. UNHCR’s emergency cash assistance programme started during the last week.