The deadly conflict in Sudan, now in its sixth month, will take centre stage today at a high-level event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. As hostilities and ethnic violence spread, the humanitarian crisis threatens to consume the entire country, while Sudan’s neighbours face a rising influx of refugees and returnees.
Sudan’s junta leader, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, who is scheduled to address the General Assembly tomorrow, departed for New York on Wednesday with a Sudanese delegation.
Malnutrition rates are surging, foreshadowing premature deaths for thousands of Sudanese children. Half of the population is acutely food insecure, and more than 6 million people are just one step away from famine. Measles and other diseases run rampant, and sexual and gender-based violence are taking an appalling toll on women and girls. More than 5 million people have been driven from their homes, including more than 1 million who have sought refuge in neighbouring Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.
With no end in sight to the fighting, the humanitarian response is a lifeline for millions of people. Though large in scale, relief efforts remain inadequate and underfunded, and aid workers face major access challenges on the ground. Neighbouring countries are also struggling to meet the needs of refugees fleeing the violence.
Today’s high-level meeting was convened by the United Nations with the Governments of Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the European Union, and the African Union. It will spotlight operational challenges and the lack of humanitarian access, propose solutions, and urge flexible and timely support for the UN’s response plans in Sudan and the region.
Specifically, the high human cost of inaction is on the agenda.
Millions of people – especially in Khartoum, Darfur and Kordofan – lack access to food, water, shelter, electricity, education and health care. Children need urgent assistance. Without increased support, 1.7 million babies risk missing out on life-saving vaccinations, and almost 700,000 children with severe acute malnutrition are at high risk of not surviving.
The Humanitarian Response Plan for Sudan requires US$2.6 billion to help 18 million people until the end of this year. It is currently 31 per cent funded.
The Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan seeks $1 billion to support refugees, returnees and host communities in five countries neighbouring Sudan. It is currently 27 per cent funded.
At a pledging event in Geneva in June, donors announced nearly $1.5 billion for the response in Sudan and the region.
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, said: “The crisis in Sudan is becoming more dangerous by the day, and needs are surging. Tireless efforts are made to get aid convoys across borders into Darfur and crossing conflict lines inside the country, but the process is tedious, bureaucratic and dangerous – a far cry from the unfettered and safe access to people that we should have. We are working hard to expand humanitarian access, but we need a political process to end the fighting and start building a new Sudan.”
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said: “Millions of people have already been forced from their homes by the war in Sudan, and each day more and more must run to seek safety. They need urgent help – humanitarian assistance to keep them alive, but also emergency development interventions to provide conditions and opportunities to live with dignity where they are until they can return home. But above all, they need the guns to fall silent and for this senseless war to stop.”
The Minister of State for International Cooperation of Qatar, H.E. Ms. Lolwah Rashid Al-Khater, said: “We are deeply concerned about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Sudan. The urgency of this situation cannot be overstated. It is imperative that the international community increases its efforts immediately to provide vital assistance and support to the Sudanese people, including the displaced and the refugees across the neighbouring countries. We call for the immediate cessation of fighting, and for all political forces to engage in dialogue and peaceful means to resolve the conflict. The State of Qatar supports the ongoing regional and international efforts aimed at ending the conflict and stabilizing Sudan.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, His Highness Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud, said: “The Kingdom will continue to stand with the people of Sudan in the hardships they face. We hope this meeting will succeed in generating the support needed for our collective humanitarian response. We also stress the importance of abiding by the Jeddah Declaration, including the protection of humanitarian personnel, assets, supplies and other facilities, and guaranteeing the security of corridors for transport and areas for storage and distribution. We also look forward to the current conflict reaching a sustainable political solution, which ushers in a more peaceful and prosperous future for the people of Sudan; we maintain our commitment to support that process.”
The Supervisor General of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, said: “Finding solutions for the humanitarian crisis in Sudan includes securing full and safe access for aid and workers, increasing international funding, and supporting sustainable peace initiatives. Millions of refugees and IDPs are in need of urgent emergency assistance in Sudan and in neighbouring countries, and host countries also need our support to care for the influx of those fleeing from the violence. With every day that passes, more and more people are at risk, but working together, we can make a positive difference in the lives of Sudan’s most vulnerable. It is our shared responsibility to do everything we can to alleviate suffering and work towards peace and stability in Sudan.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, H.E. Mr. Sameh Shoukry, said: “Sudan’s neighbouring countries should not bear the brunt of the crisis alone. Overburdening those countries and their public service provision capacities drives illegal migration. We need to uphold the principle of equitable sharing of burdens and responsibilities as the only solution towards alleviating the humanitarian burden and responding to the displacement crisis in an effective and sustainable manner.”
The EU Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “The EU remains committed to providing humanitarian assistance and protection to those affected by the conflict in Sudan and those who have fled to neighbouring countries. However, for our assistance to be effective, we need safe, timely and unhindered access for humanitarian operations. This should be guaranteed by all parties to the conflict at all times, in accordance with humanitarian principles. The high-level event taking place today will highlight these crucial access issues, as well as remind belligerents of their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.”
The African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, Bankole Adeoye, said: “The guns must fall silent through a political process for urgently needed lifesaving humanitarian assistance to reach those who need it in all parts of the country. The Sudanese people need peace from conflict and relief from want before it is too late.”