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Sudan: Civilians dying of starvation due to warring sides limiting aid access, says WFP

Fighting has prevented vital aid deliveries in the conflict-wracked country, warns the food agency
People from states of Khartoum and al-Jazira, displaced by the ongoing conflict in Sudan between the army and paramilitaries, wait to receive aid from a charity organisation in Gedaref on 30 December 2023 (AFP)

People are dying of starvation in Sudan, according to reports received by the World Food Programme (WFP), as the war enters its tenth month.

The agency on Friday called on the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), who have been at war since April, to urgently provide guarantees for humanitarian food assistance to areas at risk.

The WFP urgently called on Sudan's warring parties to provide immediate guarantees for the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian food assistance to conflict-hit areas where hungry displaced civilians are trapped and cut off from life-saving assistance.

The UN food agency said it was trying to obtain security guarantees to restart operations in the former aid hub of El Gezira, which hosts many of those who fled the capital Khartoum.

The agency added that its work in Sudan had been limited after 70 trucks had been stuck in Port Sudan for more than two weeks, and another 31 were stuck in El Obeid for more than three months.

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“The situation in Sudan today is nothing short of catastrophic. Millions of people are impacted by the conflict," said Eddie Rowe, WFP Sudan representative and country director in Sudan, in a statement.

"WFP has food in Sudan, but lack of humanitarian access and other unnecessary hurdles are slowing operations and preventing us from getting vital aid to the people who most urgently need our support."

Last month, the WFP said paramilitary fighters looted its warehouse in El Gezira, stealing "enough stocks to feed nearly 1.5 million severely food insecure people for one month".

Ongoing violence

Fighting in Sudan has been ongoing since 15 April, with more than 12,000 people killed and seven million displaced, according to the United Nations.

Unicef says that in Darfur alone, at least five million children are facing extreme deprivation of their rights and protection due to the ongoing conflict.

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The most recent conflict in Sudan began after tensions arose between RSF leader Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti, and the head of the SAF, General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan.

The two were previously allies when, in 2021, they overthrew the civilian-led government in Sudan that was formed in the wake of the toppling of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir.

However, tensions between the two leaders emerged, chief among them the plan to integrate the RSF into the Sudanese military, and the RSF and SAF now see themselves as implacable opponents in a devastating conflict.

The RSF began attacking SAF positions in the capital Khartoum and other areas of Sudan, setting off a bloody conflict that has continued to this day.

"Every single one of our trucks need to be on the road each and every day delivering food to the Sudanese people," said Rowe.

"Yet life-saving assistance is not reaching those who need it the most, and we are already receiving reports of people dying of starvation."

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