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UN says 'horrible suffering' in Sudan only growing as more people are displaced

Chadian cart owners transport belongings of Sudanese people who fled the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, while crossing the border between Sudan and Chad in Adre, Chad, August 4, 2023. (File photo by Reuters)

The United Nations has raised the alarm over the "horrible suffering" of refugees in Sudan, warning that the dire situation is only getting worse as more people are displaced.

More must be done to alleviate the suffering of the millions of people who have fled their homes to avoid the ongoing fighting in the country, Mamadou Dian Balde, the top regional official for the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) said.

According to a UN report, since a power struggle began in April between Sudanese army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commander General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, thousands have been killed and millions more forced to flee from their homes.

"Six months and six million people forced to move, that's an average of one million per month, it's horrible suffering," the top UN regional official told AFP.

He said 1.2 million have left the country, "very proud people who find themselves begging" and whose lives have been "totally disrupted."

The UN official warned that while the world's attention has been shifted to the Israeli war on Gaza, the number of people fleeing their homes in Sudan had started to rise again, as RSF forces advance toward Nyala, the country's second city in the heart of Darfur.

Balde cited a cessation of fighting between the two sides as the top priority. Till now, attempts to put a binding ceasefire in place have failed, only resulting in brief and shaky truces.

He reminded that extending aid to those affected by the war was also important. "We must alleviate the suffering (of refugees) by providing resources to these people whose numbers are only increasing," he added.

The UN's humanitarian response plan in August called for around $1bn in finances, expecting the number of refugees to rise to about 1.8mn people by the end of 2023.

Until now, the UN relief plan has only received 38 percent of the funding required, while "the needs are growing," the UN official noted, adding, "We need to create new camps, because the populations are at the border" and in "extremely miserable conditions …. We want development. We have to invest in these places because if we only give support to refugees, it will create tensions and tensions can translate into violence."

Another UN official in the region, Dominique Hyde, said on social media on Thursday that "10,000 people seeking safety have arrived in the last three days."

In related news, images posted online on Saturday showed the strategic Shambat Bridge, which crosses the White Nile connecting Khartoum’s sister cities of Khartoum North and Omdurman, had collapsed. The army and the rivaling RSF paramilitary forces each blamed the other side for the collapse of the bridge.

The army said, “The rebel militia destroyed the Shambat Bridge early this morning... adding a new crime to their record.”

On the other side, the RSF claimed, “The Burhan terrorist militia... destroyed the Shambat Bridge this morning, thinking that they could defeat our brave forces.”

According to local sources, the paramilitary forces had been allegedly using the Shambat Bridge as a route for sending supplies to their troops.

Meanwhile, fresh peace talks between Sudan’s two fighting sides resumed in late October in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

However, millions of people across the country are running out of food and the nation is on the brink of famine, according to the UN.

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