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UN: Situation in Sudan’s North Darfur capital grows more dire by the day

Internally displaced women wait in a queue to collect aid from a group at a camp in Gadaref on May 12, 2024, while clashes reignited between the Sudanese army and rival paramilitaries in the key Darfur town of El Fasher.
Internally displaced women wait in a queue to collect aid from a group at a camp in Gadaref on May 12, 2024, while clashes reignited between the Sudanese army and rival paramilitaries in the key Darfur town of El Fasher.

Humanitarians warned Friday that the situation in North Darfur’s capital, El Fasher, is growing more dire by the day, as the state’s only functioning hospital has about a week’s worth of supplies left and as casualties mount.

“The fighting has reportedly forced thousands of people to flee since 10 May and caused hundreds of civilian casualties,” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

May 10 is when clashes erupted inside El Fasher between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), who are positioned inside the city, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), who attacked surrounding towns before they entered the state capital.

According to Paris-based medical charity Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, at least 700 injured civilians arrived at that last operating hospital, known as South Hospital, in the past two weeks. Eighty-five of them have died.

"People are arriving with abdominal injuries, chest wounds, brain trauma, and open fractures,” Claire Nicolet, MSF's head of emergency programs, said earlier this week in a statement. “Some have gunshot wounds, some have been wounded by bomb fragments, and others have been wounded by shelling.”

She said the hospital urgently needs more surgeons and supplies.

Humanitarians have been struggling for weeks to reach El Fasher, where at least 800,000 civilians are sheltering, many of them having been displaced from other parts of Darfur that have fallen to the RSF.

“More than a dozen trucks carrying aid for more than 121,000 people have been trying to reach El Fasher for over a month, but the current security situation is making this all but impossible,” Dujarric said.

He added that one World Food Program truck convoy carrying 1,200 metric tons of food and nutrition supplies for about 117,000 people was able to cross into North Darfur from Chad on Thursday, through the Tine crossing.

The government of Sudan reopened that crossing in early March, after closing it citing concerns that it could be used to supply the RSF with arms and ammunition.

Weapons accusations

The Sudanese government has repeatedly accused the United Arab Emirates of sending arms to the RSF via airports in Chad. On Friday, the Security Council met at Sudan’s request to discuss the matter. The meeting was private; Sudan would have preferred it be public.

Afterward, Sudan’s envoy said the UAE should be “censured and condemned” for its actions.

“The UAE behaves like a rogue state,” Ambassador Al-Harith Idriss Al-Harith Mohamed told reporters. “It must be punished for invading Sudan through local and foreign actors and proxies.”

He said those proxies include mercenaries from Chad, southern Libya and parts of the Sahel. Mohammed said the RSF is using arms from the UAE to kill and rape civilians, displace people and destroy the country’s infrastructure.

The UAE has repeatedly denied the accusations.

“We are aware of the baseless allegations made against the UAE, which we have already addressed, including through letters to the Security Council, most recently of which was on 25 April,” UAE Ambassador Mohamed Abushahab told VOA in a written statement.

“We see the efforts by the representative of Sudan as another attempt to distract the Security Council from the atrocities being committed by the warring parties, including attacks on civilians, hospitals and schools, and the obstruction of humanitarian aid,” he said.

A report published in January by a panel of experts mandated by the Security Council to monitor sanctions implementation in Sudan said the SAF has used aerial bombing and heavy shelling in urban areas of Darfur, causing a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

The panel also found that the RSF in July started using several types of heavy and sophisticated weapons that it did not have at the start of the war, in April 2023. The experts said this gave them a military advantage that let them quickly take over Nyala in South Darfur and El Geneina in West Darfur, while the RSF’s new anti-aircraft devices helped them to counter the SAF’s air force.

The panel said that various flight-tracking experts had since June observed numerous cargo planes originating from Abu Dhabi International Airport arriving at Amdjarass International Airport in eastern Chad, with stops in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. They said information they gathered substantiated media reports alleging the aircraft carried weapons, ammunition and medical equipment for the RSF. The UAE told the panel that they were transporting humanitarian assistance for displaced Sudanese, not arms.