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UN chief: Sudan descending into death, destruction at unprecedented speed

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This screen grab obtained from a handout video shows black smoke and flames at a market in Omdurman, Khartoum North, Sudan, on May 17, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

The secretary general of the United Nations has expressed grave concern over the current situation in Sudan, saying the North African country is rapidly descending into death and destruction.

Antonio Guterres made the remarks in Geneva on Monday while addressing a donor conference. The conference was held following announcement of a three-day ceasefire in Sudan that has brought relative calm to the capital Khartoum.

"The scale and speed of Sudan's descent into death and destruction is unprecedented," the UN chief said, adding, "Without strong international support, Sudan could quickly become a locus of lawlessness, radiating insecurity across the region."

During the conference, participants pledged nearly $1.5 billion to combat the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. The figure was less than half of what humanitarian organizations say is required to address the dire situation in the country and help its neighbors host refugees fleeing the fighting.

According to experts, $2.6 billion is needed this year to tackle the country's humanitarian crisis alone, while an additional $470 million has to be spent towards invigorating the regional refugee response.

Sudan has been the scene of intense fighting between the country's army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) since mid-April over a power struggle between the army chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who heads the RSF.

More than 2,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict so far, which has seen the army targeting the RSF with airstrikes and the latter responding with artillery and anti-aircraft fire. Out of that figure, some 1,100 people have been killed in West Darfur state's capital city of of El Geneina alone.

The crisis has, meanwhile, displaced around 2.5 million people, about 550,000 of whom have fled to neighboring countries, including Egypt and Chad.

The UN has announced that a record 25 million people -- more than half of Sudan's population -- are in need of humanitarian aid.

Addressing the same conference, UN human rights chief, Volker Turk, described Sudan's crisis as a powder keg and a "reckless, senseless conflict taking place in a context of total impunity," with "utter indifference for human life and dignity" at its heart.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has reported sporadic violations of the ceasefire, saying an operation it carried out to transfer wounded soldiers to a hospital "had to be aborted after gunshots sounded in the immediate proximity of our convoy."

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