7 April 2024

Humanitarian leaders in the region have told the United States Special Envoy for Sudan that the crisis in Sudan is so severe that starvation is unavoidable, even if a lull in fighting takes place.

In calling for urgent humanitarian action and the need to reach a peace deal, envoy Tom Perriello stated, “One note from humanitarian leaders in the area is that even if the war ended tomorrow, we would still be unable to prevent a famine that is on its way. We’d only be able to reduce its acuteness and duration.”

Speaking at a virtual press conference in New York with the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, before heading to Chad with some members of the US Congress, Perriello stated that the situation in Sudan necessitates not only an increase in the volume of aid but also a safe delivery to those in need.

“And as we enter the rainy season, where things may worsen, now is not the time to pause. It is now time for us to gather together those actors who can help pave the way to peace, humanitarian protection, and access,” he stated.

Much needed food aid at Port Sudan awaiting delivery (Ayin)

Blocked aid

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield echoed Perriello’s appeal for access, noting that, despite the ongoing hazards that humanitarians face on the ground, combatants on both sides of the conflict have hindered them at every opportunity. This includes the Sudanese Armed Forces, which have obstructed major humanitarian supplies crossing from Chad to Darfur.

“More than a dearth of resources, humanitarian workers are just unable to give aid to those in need. As a result, we once again urge the army to immediately and fully reopen all of its border crossings with Chad for humanitarian purposes, including the Adré crossing,” she stated. If no action is taken, the ambassador says they will revert to the UN Security Council for potential solutions. 

“It is a matter of life and death in every sense of the word. A child dies every two hours in Zamzam camp in North Darfur, and experts warn that an additional 200,000 children could starve to death in the coming weeks and months,” she added.

Currently, the UN has only met 5% of its humanitarian request for Sudan. The World Food Programme has already had to reduce assistance to almost seven million people in Chad and South Sudan; this includes 1.2 million refugees, such as those in Eastern Chad, Thomas-Greenfield added.

Julieta Noyes (social media)

The refugee situation in Chad and Ethiopia

On 26 March, Julieta Noyes, United States Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, discusses her visit to Chad and hearing from multiple sexual violence survivors who are still severely traumatised by their experiences.

“As a result, humanitarian partners in Chad are working to incorporate mental health support into their programmes,” Noyes said. According to th Secretary, women and children make up about 90% of the more than 550,000 refugees who have come to Chad since the start of the Sudan crisis in April of last year.

She stated that, since the crisis in Sudan shows no signs of abating, the United States would continue to prioritise the needs of Sudanese refugees throughout the region, particularly in Chad, where the burden is especially great. The host government struggles to provide its residents’ basic necessities. Now, no single country or organisation can meet these momentous demands alone, she added. 

Adré Camp, Chad (Ayin)

Chad is a country where one in every three people, including Chadian nationals, requires assistance for their own survival.

“I met with refugees while I was there who had arrived in 2004 fleeing from the situation in Darfur, and they unanimously said that as terrible as the situation that they had lived in was, the situation of refugees arriving today is much worse,” she explained.

Unlike in Chad, Secretary Noyes stated that the situation in Ethiopia is fair and has a different set of challenges because Ethiopia has been hosting refugees from a variety of nations for many years. Ethiopia now hosts refugees from 27 other countries, including Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Syria. Over the last year, the Ethiopian government has received—or has received—approximately 50,000 Sudanese refugees, in addition to those who are already in the country. “Ethiopia has more resources to support humanitarian activities, including establishing additional refugee sites and providing life-saving supplies to new arrivals. Their assistance to Sudanese people fleeing violence in their country is invaluable,” she said.

Since the conflict began, about 8.1 million people have fled their homes in Sudan, including about 6.3 million people displaced within Sudan and another 1.8 million people who fled abroad, the UN reports. The number of internally displaced individuals (IDPs) has risen by approximately 53,500 in the last week.