UNHCR chief warns of 'insufficent' humanitarian access to Sudan

Peolpe displaced from Sudan's Jazira state arrive in packed vehicles to the entrance of the eastern city of Gedaref on June 10, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). PHOTO | AFP

What you need to know:

  • War has raged since April 2023 between the regular military under army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

Juba. Humanitarian access to war-torn Sudan remains woefully "insufficient", raising the risk of starvation among its population, Filippo Grandi, the head of the UN refugee agency, warned.

War has raged since April 2023 between the regular military under army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

The conflict has left tens of thousands dead and displaced more than ten million people, according to the United Nations.

In an interview with AFP on Wednesday, Grandi, who leads the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR, said that although he had "seen a little bit of progress in the last few weeks", much more action was needed to improve access.

"We are asking all the parties to give access to humanitarians because our presence there is insufficient to help the people in need, and especially to bring the food and the other supplies that are needed for people that otherwise risk starvation," he said.

Aid workers were able to get "a bit more" access than before, due to "insistence... on the part of the international community", said Grandi, during a visit to South Sudan, which has seen a huge influx of returnees from Sudan since April last year.

The global community had to continue lobbying for aid access, he said, "because otherwise we risk having more displacement, and even worse, we risk seeing people dying of hunger."

"I am very worried because I was hoping at the beginning like many Sudanese did, that this would be a short-lived conflict."

Both sides have been accused of war crimes including deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and blocking humanitarian aid, despite warnings that millions are on the brink of starvation.

Rights groups and the United States have also accused the paramilitaries of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Christos Christou, the international chief of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, on Thursday described Sudan as "one of the worst crises the world has seen for decades... yet the humanitarian response is profoundly inadequate."

"There are extreme levels of suffering across the country, and the needs are growing by the day," he said on X.