UN decries 'egregious' breaches of Sudan humanitarian pledge

·4-min read
Griffiths stressed that assistance must be scalled up dramatically to respond to the spiralling situation in Sudan
Griffiths stressed that assistance must be scalled up dramatically to respond to the spiralling situation in Sudan

The UN aid chief decried Thursday multiple serious breaches of an agreement by Sudan's warring parties last week to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure and to let in badly needed aid.

Martin Griffiths, heading the United Nation's aid efforts, welcomed the May 12 declaration signed in the Saudi city of Jeddah by the two sides in Sudan's bloody conflict vowing to refrain from attacking humanitarians delivering desperately-needed aid.

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While aid deliveries have picked up, Griffiths told AFP in an interview, "there are breaches of the declaration however, which are important and egregious, and which have happened since the signing."

The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity said Wednesday that its Khartoum warehouse had been raided a day earlier, and Griffiths pointed to an attack the same day on the World Food Programme office in the Sudanese capital among "many" examples.

"We are naturally enough building up a record of such events, and we will be talking to the two parties about them as the process goes forward," he said.

Griffiths stressed that assistance must be scaled up dramatically to respond to the spiralling situation in Sudan since the conflict erupted on April 15 between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who leads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

- 'Disgraceful' -

Around 1,000 people have been killed, mainly in and around Khartoum as well as in the long-troubled western region of Darfur, while more than a million others have been uprooted by the battles.

And "we're only a month in," Griffiths pointed out.

The UN said Wednesday that half of Sudan's population needs humanitarian aid, and that more than $3 billion will be needed this year alone to provide urgent assistance inside the country and to those fleeing across its borders.

Given the enormous needs, Griffiths insisted this was "a very modest appeal", urging donors to step up.

Hopes for a ceasefire remain dim after multiple truces were violated in the past weeks.

While discussions in Jeddah are continuing to reach a ceasefire, Griffiths explained that the negotiations around the declaration signed last was separate.

They were focused on ensuring that aid could flow even if the fighting continues, and to help bring an end to the relentless attacks and looting that depleted food stocks and put most health facilities in Khartoum out of service.

The WFP told AFP Thursday that since the start of the conflict, it had lost nearly $56 million due to looted food, stolen cash and fuel, damaged or stolen vehicles and office equipment.

"That's an enormous and shocking figure, a disgraceful figure," Griffiths said.

- 'Inconceivably dreadful' -

He acknowledged that it could take time for the commitment agreed to by the leadership on the two sides to filter down to people on the ground, adding important work is being done at the local level to ensure aid can get through.

"Getting dependable local agreements of safety and security for humanitarian safe passage, for supplies and people", he said, have for instance enabled UNICEF to begin moving supplies in an area south of Khartoum.

The Sudanese capital remains "one of the most dangerous places in the world" for humanitarians to work, Griffiths said.

In Darfur, he warned of the "dangerous and added ethnic element, which by the way is now facing the whole country".

Violence in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, has killed hundreds and caused the health system to "collapse", according to medics.

Darfur "was a place of dire need and extraordinary insecurity and great fragility" even before the latest crisis, Griffiths pointed out, saying the renewed conflict was "just inconceivably dreadful for its people".

He said efforts were underway to organise aid deliveries across the border from Chad into Darfur, and that he hoped airlifts could be organised "maybe out of Nairobi" into Darfur and Khartoum.

At the same time, Griffiths lamented that due to continued bureaucratic hurdles "we're still having difficulty moving supplies that are coming into Port Sudan" further into the country.

This situation could be fixed, he said, and "it should be done urgently".

nl/giv