Human rights groups are warning of widespread ethnic violence, attacks on civilians and rampant sexual violence against women and girls as the warring factions – the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – continue to battle for control of the northeastern African country.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported Wednesday that more than 2.4 million have been internally displaced in Sudan while 737,801 people have crossed the border into neighboring countries.
The toll on civilians continues to grow, according to the latest report from the UN’s Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) which states that 414,625 individuals comprising 483,672 households, have been displaced, an increase of 183,102 individuals compared to last week.
The number of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries, mainly Egypt, Chad and South Sudan, is also increasing with an estimated 750,000 civilians leaving Sudan entirely.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has said that 20,000 refugees crossed into Chad just last week, adding that many of them are “seriously wounded” and report being “deliberately” targeted in an “increasing ethnic dimension to the violence.”
“We can see that they have suffered, many lost family members, and we don’t even dare ask them, ‘Where are the men?’ The answer from the mothers is often that they were killed. So, you just see many women, many children,” WFP Chad Country Director Pierre Honnorat said, describing desperate scenes from the Zabout refugee camp in Goz Beida in a call with journalists.
“Many are seriously wounded and have harrowing stories of the violence they have experienced” Honorat said, appealing for funding, adding that the “situation is really critical.”
In a statement, WFP said its “urgent priorities include treating the wounded and helping dangerously malnourished children crossing from Darfur into Chad.”
According to WFP, one in 10 displaced children from Sudan is malnourished.
UN officials condemned increasing reports of gender-based violence in Sudan earlier this month, with Save the Children warning of “alarming numbers of children and teenage girls being sexually assaulted and raped by armed combatants.”
Martin Griffiths, UN’s relief operations chief said it’s “unconscionable” that Sudan’s women and children “are being further traumatized this way.” He labeled Sudan “a crisis of humanity.”
The situation in Darfur, western Sudan, is also said to be “critical” with the UN receiving “continued reports of heavy fighting and attacks on civilians”.
In addition to clashes between RSF and SAF, OCHA’s report also notes increased RSF and militia presence reports emerging from other Darfur states, as well as fighting in North and South Kordofan, in an increasingly complex fighting landscape across Sudan.