Sudan on its knees after a year of brutal civil war

By Melissa Chemam with RFI
Sudan Sudan on its knees after a year of brutal civil war

A year ago, on 15 April, the civil war in Sudan began. The violence resulted in the displacement of millions. Now, as food shortages get worse, aid is not reaching many of the displaced. In response, France and Germany are hosting a conference in Paris, Monday, to try to raise funds for victims of the conflict.

The war between Sudan's army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has sparked widespread hunger in the country after destroying infrastructure and markets and displacing more than eight million people.

The InterAgency Working Group (IAWG), a consortium of both local and international humanitarian organisations is alerting the international community to the unfolding crisis as France hosts an international summit in Paris.

 The United States  has already promised to add more than a hundred million dollars in additional funding to spur an international response at the donor conference, the US Special Envoy to the North African country Tom Perriello said on Wednesday.

Sudan's vast western region of Darfur was still struggling with the arfermath of conflict which started in 2003 conflict and only finished with a peace agreement in August 2020. This new war broke out in April 2023.

The first salvos were exchanged on 15 April 2023 between Abdel Fattah al-Burhan's army and Mohammed Hamdan Daglo's (RSF).

Diplomats and aid workers immediately left Sudan.
More than 10 million children in Sudan have been caught in an active warzone and less than five kilometres away from gunfire and shelling during the past year of war, according to the NGO Save the Children.

Looting, fighting, air strikes and roads cut by warring factions have isolated every region of the  African country located in the northeast and which is more than three times the size of France.

Refugees and displaced people

The conflict has uprooted eight million people in Sudan, displacing 6.7 million inside the country, and 1.8 million in neighbouring countries.

Some 3.4 million refugees are in urgent need of humanitarian help in Chad alone following the arrival of large numbers of Sudanese fleeing war.

More than 400,000 Sudanese refugees had already fled to Chad between 2003 and 2020, according to the UN.

"Provinces in the east of Chad are among the country's most vulnerable zones with poor access to basic services, and the arrival of refugees drastically exacerbates the need," French NGO Action Contre La Faim (ACF, or Action Against Hunger), said in a statement in April.

"It is urgent for donors to guarantee sustainable financing of the humanitarian response," said ACF's Chad director Henri-Noel Tatangang.

Only 4.5 percent of requirements are currently covered, he added.

Chad's transitional president Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno declared a "state of food and nutritional emergency" throughout the country in February.

Hundreds of thousands refugees are also fleeing the conflict in South Sudan and even Egypt. 

The United Nations had warned in March that life-saving food aid for hundreds of thousands of people pouring out of war-torn Sudan would grind to a halt in April without international funding.

It added it has been able to reach only 10 percent of Sudan's 48 million people, with the country on the brink of famine.

'Catastrophic hunger'

The World Food Programme (WFP) recently said it had negotiated the delivery of the first two convoys of food aid into Sudan's Darfur region in months.

One convoy with 1,300 tonnes of supplies was able to arrive via the Adre border crossing with Chad into West and Central Darfur, two areas already seeing 'catastrophic hunger' of hunger after being overrun by the Rapid Support Forces.Catastrophic hunger is the the term used for famine conditions by aid agencies.

But the UN organisation has also issued warnings of impending famine caused by a one-year war and lack of access to food aid.

Catastrophic hunger is also expected in Khartoum and West Darfur, which have seen the fiercest attacks, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net), as well as in many other areas of Darfur that house millions of displaced people.

More than 18 million people facing acute hunger need assistance, the WFP says.

"I fear that we will see unprecedented levels of starvation and malnutrition sweep across Sudan this lean season," said WFP Sudan Country Director, Eddie Rowe, said in his latest statement, referring to the upcoming planting months.

The last cereal harvest only produced half of previous levels,the Food and Agriculture Organisation said, while prices of some goods have doubled.

Complicated access to aid

The belligerents are accused of using hunger as a weapon of war and diverting humanitarian aid.

This worries donors around the world, risking an impact on the quantity of aid obtained by humanitarians, according to Anette Hoffmann, an international relations researcher in The Hague, Netherlands.

She told RFI that she asks actors to adapt their methods. 

After decades of Omar al Bashir rule, which saw the manipulation and diversion of large amounts of aid, NGOs have learned lessons. 

"Channeling aid to local responders minimises the risk of seeking aid weaponised by both parties, which is definitely a practice that is ongoing," she said.

"Using multiple entry points through the various borders by, cutting out middlemen, working with smaller portions or less concentration of aid, are all mechanisms that can, maybe not eliminate but mitigate the risk of aid diversion and starvation as a weapon of war."

"This is the positive note on the 30 years of al-Bashir's dictatorship, these learnings and this is the time to apply them."

Meanwhile, drones hit the Sudanese city of al-Gadaref the second week of April, eyewitnesses and the local governor said, bringing the country's devastating war to a calm farming state.

Almost half a million displaced people have taken refuge in around Gadaref, the capital of al-Gadaref State.

Eyewitnesses said at least two drones had targeted military installations in Gadaref, which is located just to the east of Gezira.

They said they heard explosions as well as anti-aircraft missiles being fired from the ground.

The RSF has taken control of the capital Khartoum, neighbouring Gezira state as well as most of the Darfur and Kordofan regions in the west, while the army holds the north and east of Sudan including its main Red Sea port.

 (with newswires)