North Kordofan activists warn of ‘looming catastrophe’ in Um Rawaba

Picture taken from the road between Um Rawaba and El Obeid in North Kordofan (File photo: Sari Omer)

Activists warn of a looming catastrophe in Um Rawaba, North Kordofan, as over 66,000 displaced families endure hardships. Air raids by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) have worsened the already severe humanitarian crisis in the area, prompting urgent calls for UN intervention.

Travel restrictions imposed by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that recently recaptured Um Rawaba, have led to closure of key roads, driving up the costs of basic goods.

Um Rawaba and surrounding areas have been suffering from road closures since Monday, specifically the road linking the town with El Abbasiya in South Kordofan. Initially, the RSF allowed people to travel in the beginning of the week but has since imposed restrictions. 

A local source explained how civilians are forced to smuggle themselves out of the town, paying high fees.

With no protection from either the RSF or SAF in areas under their control, people have been subject to robberies by those outside the town, notably riding motorcycles. Families have been warned of these violations and now prefer to remain within the city to avoid facing similar robberies.

SAF air raids on Um Rawaba having been reported as a major concern amongst the residents, leaving many dead with properties and infrastructure destroyed. The continued air strikes leave civilians with extremely limited movement and activity in the markets. 

Consequently, many commercial activities have stopped, leading to shortages of basic materials, and forcing civilians to seek alternative safe places for work to provide their families’ needs.

The price hikes from the closure of the Um Rawaba-El Abbasiya road has led to increased scarcity. Sources have pointed to four litres of petrol costing SDG57,000, which would otherwise be used to run flour mills and medical facilities for the locals. These services are now forced to operate in a reduced capacity, also reflected in the lack of available medicines and overall humanitarian aid deliverances into the city. 

An alternative link road between Kosti in White Nile state and El Abbasiya can be used; yet is less cost-efficient in transporting goods due to the extended distance. Moreover, the road’s window of use is limited as it will become difficult to pass once the incoming rainy season begins.

Activists within Um Rawaba have warned a humanitarian catastrophe if the town does not receive urgent humanitarian aid by UN organisations, as it is host to more than 66,000 families displaced by the war.