U.N. agencies warn health conditions are deteriorating in Sudan and neighboring countries as growing numbers of people flee escalating fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
Before the conflict erupted on April 15, 4.5 million Sudanese already were displaced — more than 3.7 million inside Sudan and another 800,000 as refugees in Chad, South Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia.
Since the rival generals went to war, the U.N. refugee agency says nearly an equal number — more than four million people — have become newly displaced.
“The situation inside Sudan, where UNHCR teams are present, is untenable as needs far outweigh what is humanly possible to deliver with available resources,” said William Spindler, UNHCR spokesman.
He said a lack of medicine and a shortage of staff to care for the sick and wounded in White Nile State severely hampered health and nutrition services in all 10 refugee camps, “where over 144,000 newly displaced refugees from Khartoum have arrived since the conflict started.”
He said many families that have been on the move for weeks, with very little food and medicine, were arriving at border entry points and transit centers in neighboring countries in desperate condition.
As a result, he said malnutrition rates have been rising, as have disease outbreaks and related deaths.
“Between 15 May and 17 July, over 300 deaths, mainly among children under five years, were reported due to measles and malnutrition,” he said.
“In addition, severe cholera and malaria cases are expected in the coming months due to flooding from the continuing rains and inadequate sanitation facilities.”
Now in its fourth month of conflict, the World Health Organization says insecurity, as well as limited access to medicine, medical supplies, electricity and water pose a challenge to the delivery of health care.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said attacks on health facilities were increasing, preventing the sick and wounded from accessing medical treatment. He said the WHO has verified 53 attacks on health care, causing 11 deaths and 38 injuries, between April 15 and July 31.
“Attacks on health care are a gross violation of international humanitarian law and the right to health. They must stop. Humanitarian workers need assurances of safety and security in order to continue delivering critical humanitarian and health response,” he said.
Meanwhile, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization warns Sudan is facing a deepening food crisis, noting that “20.3 million individuals in Sudan face severe hunger, a figure that has nearly doubled since last year.”
Maximo Torero, FAO chief economist, said a recent U.N. food assessment shows “the level of acute food insecurity in Sudan has increased substantially to more than 11 million people because of the conflict. So, the situation is deteriorating.”
Meanwhile, in a bit of welcome news, the U.N. Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, confirmed Tuesday that the first humanitarian convoy since the start of the conflict had arrived in the East Darfur state after nine days on the road and that “those supplies have been distributed to more than 15,000 people in remote villages in the state.”
Additionally, OCHA said that the FAO had provided 430 tons of agricultural seeds “to be distributed to farmers across the state by the Ministry of Agriculture.”
U.N. agencies agree that the competing generals’ power grab has deepened Sudan’s humanitarian crisis. They warn the lives of many people are hanging by a thread, lives that will be lost without more donor support.
The Federal Ministry of Health says 12,200 people have been injured and 1,205 killed since April 15, figures U.N. agencies believe are greatly underestimated.