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UNHCR Urges End to Sudan's Conflict Amid Escalating Violence

FILE - An internally displaced child stands outside a tent pitched at the Hasahisa secondary school on July 10, 2023, which has been made into a make-shift camp to house those fleeing violence in war-torn Sudan.

The UNHCR's special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mohammed Affey, Thursday issued an urgent call to end the devastating conflict in Sudan, stressing the imperative to save millions of lives and restore peace in the region.

Affey, who was on a three-day visit to South Sudan, implored the international community to amplify their support for hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese returnees and Sudanese refugees seeking safety in the country. He warned that the conflict's impact is devastating the region, straining limited resources and fostering a dire humanitarian situation.

Affey expressed concern over the plight of those who have returned to South Sudan, acknowledging the government's efforts to address the challenges faced by returning populations.

He visited reception centers in Malakal, while witnessing firsthand the experiences of people fleeing the violence in Sudan.

"What we saw really is quite devastating in terms of the situation of the people who have returned and the condition they are living in. But we would like to thank the government for its efforts in trying to address the challenges that continue to face those returning populations," Affey said.

The conflict in Sudan has displaced over 3 million people and forced hundreds of thousands to seek refuge in neighboring countries, placing a strain on limited resources.

The United Nations says more than 72% of those displaced were from the capital Khartoum and around 9% from West Darfur province where the clashes between the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces have been largely centered.

Affey noted the conflict's far-reaching impact beyond Sudan's borders, affecting South Sudan, Chad, Egypt, Central African Republic, and the entire Horn of Africa region.

Marie Helene, UNHCR's country representative for South Sudan, reported a daily influx of 2,000 South Sudanese returnees and refugees through various border crossings, exacerbating the crisis with soaring food prices.

"The northern states of South Sudan -- Upper Nile, Bahr El-Ghazal, Warrap, and Unity States -- depend on Sudan for food, basic goods, and oil. We have seen prices of food in many of these states tripled since April," Helene said.

As the conflict in Sudan persists, the humanitarian challenges become increasingly intricate, UNHCR and the South Sudan government announced the establishment of a new refugee camp in Aweil, Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal State to accommodate those fleeing the violence in Sudan's Darfur region.

Healthcare pushed to the brink

As Sudan's conflict enters its fourth month, the last round of talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia yielded short-term cease-fires, repeatedly violated, further exacerbating the crisis.

Amidst escalating violence in Khartoum, Dr. Rashid Mukhtar, a health program consultant for Project HOPE — a global health and humanitarian organization — working at Al Now hospital in Omdurman reported intensified hostilities in recent days.

Mukhtar told VOA healthcare delivery is bearing the brunt of the crisis, as hospital workers grapple with the loss of lives due to inadequate transportation and safe routes for patients.

Many arrive at the facility dying or dead, Mukhtar said, exacerbating the dire shortage of medical supplies, adding anesthesia shortages have forced the hospital to perform sutures on injured patients without proper pain relief.

He implored both sides in the conflict to ensure a "safe line of transportation for patients to receive the proper treatment they deserve."

Mukhtar attributes the current escalation to both the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces seeking battlefield gains to bolster their positions ahead of the upcoming negotiations in Jeddah, mediated by the United States and Saudi Arabia.

He says he is appealing to humanitarian organizations, urging them to provide crucial support to Khartoum's hospitals, suppling "medical equipment, medications, supplies, and consumables."

Editor's Note: This article was updated to correct Dr. Rashid Mukhtar's title.