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Sudan’s warring factions using starvation as weapon, experts say

Special rapporteurs working for UN warn famine is imminent and over 25 million people need urgent help

By Associated Press in Cairo

June 27, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

Human rights experts working for the United Nations have accused Sudan’s warring parties of using starvation as a war weapon, amid mounting warnings of imminent famine in the African country.

Sudan plunged into chaos in April last year when simmering tensions between the country’s military and a notorious paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), exploded into open fighting in the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere in the country.

In 14 months of fighting, more than 14,000 people have been killed and 33,000 others wounded or injured, according to the UN, but rights activists say the toll could be much higher.

There have been widespread reports of sexual violence and other atrocities that rights groups say amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The conflict created the world’s largest displacement crisis, with more than 11 million people forced to flee their homes.

“Both the SAF [Sudanese armed forces] and the RSF are using food as a weapon and starving civilians,” the experts said. “The extent of hunger and displacement we see in Sudan today is unprecedented and never witnessed before.”

Neither the military nor the RSF returned phone calls seeking comment.

The experts warned that famine was imminent as humanitarian aid has been blocked and harvest season disrupted by the war. They said more than 25 million civilians in Sudan and those who fled the country were being starved and needed urgent humanitarian assistance.

A report by the Clingendael Institute thinktank said last month that about 2.5 million people in Sudan could die from hunger by the end of September, with about 15% of the population in the regions of Darfur and Kordofan probably being the worst affected.

The independent experts said local efforts in response to Sudan’s hunger crisis had been hampered by unprecedented violence and targeted attacks on civil society and local responders. Dozens of activists and local volunteers have been arrested, threatened and prosecuted in recent weeks, they said.

“The deliberate targeting of humanitarian workers and local volunteers has undermined aid operations, putting millions of people at further risk of starvation,” they said. “Local responders are risking their health and lives and working across battle lines.”

They urged both sides to “stop blocking, looting and exploiting humanitarian assistance”.

The experts are part of the UN special procedures, which is the largest body of independent experts in the organisation’s human rights system.

The fighting has in recent months centred around El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, trapping hundreds of thousands of civilians. At least 143,000 people have been forced to flee the city over the past three months, according to the UN.

The UN security council earlier this month demanded the RSF immediately end its siege of the city, which is the military’s last stronghold in the sprawling Darfur region.


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