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WFP: More refugees to flee Sudan as fighting intensifies between warring sides

People gather to get bread during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, April 22, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

The World Food Program (WFP) has warned that more refugees will flee Sudan into neighboring Chad amid ongoing fighting between the country's army and its rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Forces commanded by the two previously allied leaders of Sudan's ruling council began a violent power struggle last weekend. Hundreds have died so far and a nation reliant on food aid has been tipped into what the United Nations calls a humanitarian catastrophe.

"We are expecting more waves, that is certain. Immediately, when there will be a security window for them to come. There are major towns near the border and those there have not been able to move," Pierre Honnorat, director of the WFP in Chad, said in an interview with Reuters on Friday, whose text was published on Saturday.

Around 10,000 to 20,000 Sudanese have already crossed the common border into Chad only a week after the fighting began in the capital Khartoum and other areas of the country.

"The World Food Program is going to prepare to welcome at least 100,000. It is probable that there could be more, so we have to be ready," Honnorat said.

Earlier on Friday, the warring groups in Sudan were reported to be still engaged in fierce clashes with heavy gunfire and explosions heard in Khartoum and other cities despite the proclamation of a 72-hour ceasefire.

"Four hundred and thirteen people have died and 3,551 people have been injured," the World Health Organization's spokeswoman, Margaret Harris, told reporters in Geneva. The United Nations children's agency, UNICEF, has also said that at least nine children were among the dead and more than 50 had been wounded.

Addressing the plight of the Sudanese children, Honnorat said the number of the Sudanese children, who were being seen fleeing the border into Chad "was impressive."

"We were surprised to see so many children crossing. It was heartbreaking to see the women and children under trees. Some of them have suffered some violence, their houses burnt, their villages destroyed, and their neighborhoods completely looted," he said.

This came after earlier on Saturday, the Sudanese army said it would facilitate the evacuation of diplomats and nationals of the United Kingdom, the United States, France and China on board military transport planes from Khartoum, as heavy fighting between the forces of rival generals entered a second week.

Previous plans to evacuate foreign nationals were not implemented due to safety issues, as Khartoum's international airport has been closed since the fighting erupted last weekend between the troops loyal to Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the leader of the RSF, Mohammed Hamdan Daglo.

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