Humanitarian aid to Sudan slow despite fighting lull amid truce

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warns Sudan’s rival generals to abide by the latest ceasefire or face possible sanctions.

Youths play outdoors near a blocked road in southern Khartoum
Youths play outdoors near a blocked road in southern Khartoum on May 21, 2023, amid ongoing fighting [File: AFP]

Clashes continued overnight in Sudan on the second day of a weeklong truce agreed between rival military factions to allow for the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid into the devastated country.

Residents in Omdurman, one of the three cities around the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile rivers that make up Sudan’s greater capital, told Reuters news agency that exchanges of fire and the sound of heavy artillery could be heard late on Tuesday.

The ceasefire, which comes after five weeks of intensive warfare in the capital Khartoum and other areas, including the western region of Darfur, is being monitored by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Reporting from Khartoum, Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan said while driving on Tuesday through Khartoum North, she could “definitely smell death on the streets”.

Morgan said decomposed bodies could be seen strewn on the roads, as well as destroyed buildings, bullet and burn marks on some facilities and signs of artillery fire.

“You can tell that many people have left the city of Bahri [Khartoum North]. Those who have remained say they are trying to guard their homes. Others say it is because of the economic situation that they can’t leave,” she said, adding that Khartoum North was once a vibrant and lively city.

Fighting erupted between Sudan’s army and the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on April 15, just as plans for an internationally backed political transition towards elections under a civilian government were set to be finalised.

The fighting has killed at least 863 civilians, including at least 190 children, and wounded more than 3,530 others, according to the Sudanese Doctors’ Syndicate.

The fight has also forced more than one million people to flee their homes. The United Nations says the number of people requiring aid has jumped to 25 million – more than half the population.

Slow humanitarian aid delivery

Although the ceasefire brought a relative lull in fighting in Khartoum on Wednesday, aid workers told Reuters that the delivery of humanitarian aid remained slow, with many staff arriving at Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast and waiting for their security permits.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) said violence, looting and administrative and logistical challenges had continually hampered efforts to increase its activities.

In a statement on Tuesday, MSF said: “[S]taff and patients are repeatedly facing the trauma of armed groups entering and looting MSF premises, with medicines, supplies and vehicles being stolen.”

“This shocking disregard for humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law has impeded our ability to provide healthcare to people at a time when it is desperately needed,” it added.

Javid Abdelmoneim, a doctor working with MSF in Sudan, wrote on Twitter that his team had lost access to a warehouse and its contents, leaving “life-ending consequences for Sudanese people”.

“We are experiencing a violation of humanitarian principles and the space for humanitarians to work is shrinking on a scale I’ve rarely seen before,” said Jean-Nicolas Armstrong Dangelser, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Sudan.

Morgan, citing several aid groups Al Jazeera spoke to, said they remain unable to deliver aid, especially to Khartoum.

“That’s because of the ongoing violence. This ceasefire has been violated from the very beginning, from when it first came into effect, up until late last night. There was heavy artillery fire and fighting between the rival factions,” said Morgan.

Raising the alarm on a potential disaster, a Red Cross official said on Tuesday that it will be impossible to relocate all of the Sudanese refugees streaming into Chad to safer places before the start of the rainy season in late June.

Up to 90,000 people have fled into Chad, according to the UN refugee agency’s estimates last week.

Monitoring violations

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday warned Sudan’s rival generals to abide by the latest ceasefire or face possible sanctions.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters in Washington, DC that the US will be working to press the rival factions to “stop the violence when we see violations of the ceasefire” and will use unspecified “additional tools” if appropriate.

In a video message posted by the US embassy on social media, Blinken also said that because the truce is designed to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance and restore essential services, violations of the truce by either rival faction would be monitored.

He said a remote mechanism to monitor the truce had been set up to verify reported violations since the ceasefire went into effect.

It includes a 12-member monitoring committee consisting of three representatives from the warring sides, three from the US, and three from Saudi Arabia.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies