Millions of people are currently facing an acute shortage of food and medical supplies in Sudan as two rival armed forces continue to clash in an ongoing conflict that started on April 15. It has thus far left 97 people dead, a trail of thousands of injuries, and destruction of key roads and power lines.
The World Food Program (WFP), which has been supplying food in the country’s drought-stricken regions, has temporarily suspended its operations amid the escalating fighting whose casualties also included three of its staffers. “We cannot do our lifesaving work if the safety and security of our teams and partners is not guaranteed,” WFP said in a statement.
Last September, WFP reported that at least 15 million people, or one-third of the population, were facing hunger in Sudan, in what’s considered to be the country’s worst famine in four decades. Sudan relies on humanitarian aid for most of its food and medicine supplies, and the conflict’s disruption adds to an already dire situation.
The conflict is inhibiting access to healthcare in Sudan
The Sudanese Red Crescent (SRC), which has been evacuating those injured in the conflicts and transferring them to hospitals, warned that the fighting is making it difficult for doctors to work. “We have 245 volunteers in Khartoum to replace the health staff in hospitals. There is a high shortage of medical staff, and most of them cannot reach the hospitals,” SRC’s communications director Osama Abu Bakr Othman told Al Jazeera.
On April 16, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on all parties involved in the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations, as the fighting puts both civilians and refugees at risk.
“People living in large cities like Khartoum are heavily dependent on public infrastructure. Any damage to these facilities can disrupt essential services like healthcare,” Alfonso Verdu Perez, head of Sudan’s ICRC delegation, said in a statement.
The fighting pits the country’s military forces against a rival paramilitary outfit in a power struggle that threatens the transition to civilian rule in the north African country.
Any prospects for a power sharing deal that would pave the way for the democratic election of a civilian government now hangs in the balance.
The African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), US, UK, China, Russia, Germany, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Chad are calling for a ceasefire and a restoration of peace in the nation, which holds vast oil and mineral resources, fertile arable lands, and strategic location for access to the Red Sea coastline.
Why the Sudanese army and the RSF are clashing
The fighting comes after a long standing period of heightened tensions between Sudan’s military, headed by president Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his one-time partner Rapid Support Forces (RSF) group, led by vice president Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
The country’s military has for years positioned itself as the power broker in deciding and installing who leads the government. RSF now also wants to be acknowledged as a key player in the control of the country.
In 2021, the two now fighting factions joined forces to oust a civilian government that had been in place since Sudan’s former leader, Omar al Bashir, was deposed in 2019. The 2021 coup also saw the detaining of the then prime minister Abdalla Hamdok.
Al Bashir’s ouster came after a series of civilian demonstrations and pressure from both the military and the RSF—which, ironically, was al Bashir’s own creation, for enforcement purposes.