People's Stories Peace

War is devastating lives around the world
by ICRC, Office of the UN Secretary-General
23 May 2023
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council’s open debate on “Protection of civilians in armed conflict”:
Less than six weeks have passed since war erupted in Sudan. In that time: Hundreds of civilians have been killed — including members of the United Nations family; 250,000 people have fled the country; hospitals have been occupied and attacked; the price of goods is reported to have quadrupled in parts of the country; and aid warehouses have been looted on a massive scale. Terrible as this picture is, it is far from unique.
My report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict in 2022 shows that war is devastating lives around the world.
Explosive weapons continue to wreak havoc, especially in the cities: Last year, 94 per cent of their victims in populated areas were civilians.
Those able to flee the fighting did so in record numbers: The total number forced from their homes due to conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution reached 100 million refugees.
Health facilities and schools were devastated, and their workers injured, kidnapped and killed. At least 2000 schools were destroyed in three regions of Ethiopia alone.
Humanitarians also faced regular threats. Their work was hampered by violence, bureaucracy and politics, and obstructed by overly broad sanctions and counter-terrorism measur
In Afghanistan, the ban by the de facto authorities on women working in the humanitarian aid sector is having life-threatening consequences for women and girls.
War means hunger. Armed conflict is a key factor driving food insecurity around the world. Last year, more than 117 million people faced acute hunger primarily because of war and insecurity. This is an outrage.
Damage to critical infrastructure hampers food production, blocks distribution and deprives people of safe water: Syria now has 40 per cent less drinking water than at the start of the conflict. Fighters destroy crops and steal livestock; explosives contaminate fertile land; markets cannot function; and prices rocket.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has contributed to the rise in the price of food, energy and fertilizer globally, with terrible effects for the world’s poorest.
And when conflict combines with the climate crisis, harvests shrink and people go hungry. I saw this for myself during my recent visit to Somalia. After years of war, Somalis have been going through their worst drought in decades.
An estimated 43,000 people died as a result in 2022 alone, half of them children, and millions have been forced from their homes.
There has been a few actions over the past year to alleviate the impact of conflict on civilians. Some parties to conflicts have taken steps to protect children, allow humanitarians to gain access to those in need, and more.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative and the memorandum of understanding to promote Russian food and fertilizer to global markets (somewhat) helped to stabilize markets, bring down prices and ease the food crisis.
Ukraine has been able to export over 30 million metric tons of food. That includes lifesaving grain transported by the World Food Programme to support humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen.
I welcome the Russian Federation’s confirmation that it will continue to participate in the Black Sea Initiative for another 60 days. Outstanding issues remain. But representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and the United Nations will keep discussing them. And looking ahead, we hope that exports of food and fertilizers, including ammonia, from the Russian Federation and Ukraine will be able to reach global supply chains safely and predictably.
Last November, States adopted a political declaration to protect civilians by restricting or refraining from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. I urge all states to join and turn the declaration into meaningful action.
And in December, the Security Council adopted resolution 2664 (2022), which aims to prevent United Nations sanctions from harming civilians and obstructing humanitarian action. I urge all States to implement it and to exclude humanitarian and medical activities from their own counter-terrorism and sanctions measures.
These modest steps are welcome. But the terrible truth is that the world is failing to live up to its commitments to protect civilians; commitments enshrined in international humanitarian law.
The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols are the cornerstone of that legal framework. And I pay tribute to the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the guardian of those treaties: You meet danger and brutality with bravery, compassion and humanity, and you will always have my full support.
ICRC’s role is unique. It has a mandate to respond, and that mandate must be respected: by every Government, every armed group and every fighter.
We must never lose sight of the meaning and purpose of international humanitarian law: It is the difference between life and death; between restraint and anarchy; between losing ourselves in horror and retaining our humanity.
But law overlooked is law undermined. We need action and accountability to ensure it is respected. That depends on political will. Peace is the best form of protection.
We must intensify our efforts to prevent conflict, protect civilians, preserve peace and find political solutions to war.
Where war continues, all countries must comply with international humanitarian law and members of this Council have a particular responsibility. Governments should incorporate international humanitarian law into national laws and military rules and training.
Humanitarians must be assured safe access. Attacks against them must cease. And their work must be facilitated, including by removing deadly bureaucratic barriers. It is unconscionable that vital aid languishes in ports and warehouses while people die.
The Security Council has a special role to play in urging States to respect the rules of war. Governments with influence over warring parties should engage in political dialogue and train forces on protecting civilians. And countries that export weapons should refuse to do business with any party that fails to comply with international humanitarian law.
Those who commit war crimes must be held to account. States must investigate alleged war crimes, prosecute perpetrators and enhance other States’ capacity to do so.
And we must do everything in our power to break the deadly cycle of armed conflict and hunger:
Addressing the underlying causes of hunger by strengthening vulnerable countries’ economies; honouring commitments to support countries on the frontlines of the climate crisis; and increasing contributions to humanitarian operations, which are — shamefully — just 15 per cent funded.
Civilians have suffered the deadly effects of armed conflict for too long. It is time we live up to our promise to protect them.
23 May 2023
Speech by President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric to the UN Security Council on the protection of civilians:
For the International Committee of the Red Cross, the issue of protection of civilians lies at the core of our mandate. As we meet, countless civilians in conflicts around the world are experiencing a living hell.
Any minute, the next missile can obliterate their home, their school, their clinic and everyone in it. Any day, their loved ones might be abused, raped, detained, or tortured. Any week, they might run out of food or medicine.
Everywhere I look – and in my short time as president of the ICRC, I have visited conflict-affected countries in Africa, Europe and the Near East – I see a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation. Entire regions are trapped in cycles of conflict without an end in sight.
ICRC’s figures show that the number of non-international armed conflicts has, over the past 20 years, more than tripled from less than 30 to over 90.
Many of these are protracted conflicts, bringing ceaseless suffering – suffering that is compounded by climate shocks, food insecurity and economic hardship.
Civilians are gravely unprotected because they suffer a relentless accumulation of attacks, threats, destruction, as well as political stalemates.
When conflicts are characterised by widespread destruction and violation of international humanitarian law; then development and peace become an unachievable ambition.
It is clear: the protection of civilians is a pre-condition of stability, peace, and recovery.
My calls to States today are urgent. First, protect civilians and critical infrastructure in urban areas. The widespread and often indiscriminate destruction of homes and critical infrastructure disproportionately raises the cost of war.
Across the places I visited in the past months, I saw how the shock of losing one’s home is compounded by the interruption or prolonged absence of essential services such as water, electricity, healthcare, and education.
As fighting envelops towns and cities, such as in Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, the ICRC is seeing large-scale and compounding patterns of harm. We need to break the pattern of violations: and this can be done through strong political will and sustained action.
State and non-state parties must do more to prevent, reduce, and mitigate the damage that armed conflict causes in urban centres. In adopting resolution 2573 more than two years ago, this very Council demanded that parties to armed conflict do more. I echo that call again today.
The ICRC urges all parties engaged in urban warfare to:
Ensure that the protection of civilians is prioritized in urban settings; Comply fully with international humanitarian law and notably the principles on distinction, proportionality, and precaution; Avoid the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas - and endorse and faithfully implement the Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas; and Ensure that the protection of essential services encompasses the infrastructure, people and consumables that keep hospitals, water, and power functioning.
Second, States must step up to prevent and mitigate food insecurity in conflict-affected areas.
During my visit to the Horn of Africa earlier this year, I saw how conflict and climate shocks are having a devastating impact on already vulnerable communities. In Somalia, more than seven million people are in urgent need of food and water.
The combination of drought, lack of investment in climate adaptation in conflict zones and the knock-on effects of the international armed conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine is seriously impacting people in conflicts around the world.
The ICRC calls on states and other actors to:
Respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law, including rules on the conduct of hostilities, to reduce the risk of food insecurity and famine. Invest in practical solutions and adaptation measures to mitigate the effects of climate change in conflict-affected regions.
Third, I call on States to enable neutral and impartial humanitarian access:
This means: access to civilians in need, notably besieged communities… Access to overcrowded detention facilities where we continue to see worrying trends in relation to ill-treatment and torture… Access to the estimated 175 million people who live in areas fully or partially controlled by armed groups.
This requires enabling a humanitarian dialogue with non-state armed groups, for instance through the implementation of the humanitarian carve-out to sanctions regimes adopted by this Council in resolution 2664. This is critical for an organization like the ICRC which maintains a dialogue with more than 300 armed groups worldwide.
In today’s operating environment, misinformation and disinformation also present a threat to populations and hinder humanitarian operations. Misinformation can fuel dangerous community divisions and undermine community acceptance of humanitarian organisations.
We urge States and other actors to take all necessary measures to prevent and mitigate the impact of harmful information on the safety, dignity, and rights of civilians, and to preserve the space for neutral, impartial humanitarian action and to protect it from political instrumentalization.
Finally, I must underscore: the protection of civilians means the protection of all. There is no chance of enduring stability or security until international humanitarian law is upheld for all genders.
The ICRC urges states to:
Ensure that all persons, regardless of their gender, are protected in conflict and equally benefit from humanitarian assistance. Ensure that the clear prohibition of sexual violence under international humanitarian law is integrated into national laws, military doctrine, and training. Commit to applying a gender perspective into the application and interpretation of international humanitarian law.
The ICRC continues to insist on the preventive and protective effects of international humanitarian law. Compliance with the law protects civilians. It prevents violations and abuses.
It reduces the cost of war while maintaining a pathway to ceasefire agreements, and eventually to lasting peace, functioning economies, and a healthy natural environment.
I call upon all states to uphold international humanitarian law, including through their influence over others.
In times of compounding global trends and geopolitical tensions, compliance with international humanitarian law must become a political priority.
12 May 2023
Report of the Secretary-General: Protection of civilians in armed conflict 2022
With over 100 armed conflicts worldwide, civilians have continued to endure profound and lasting hardship. In 2022, as in previous years, armed conflict led to death, injury, enforced disappearance, torture, rape and other suffering and loss. The destruction of critical infrastructure had far-reaching consequences, including disruptions to electricity, health care, water and sanitation services, and deprived many of the essentials to live. Health-care personnel and facilities were targeted, leaving thousands without care.
The use of explosive weapons in populated areas had devastating effects well beyond their intended targets. The rise in prices of food, fuel and fertilizers, combined with the effects of climate change, further intensified civilians’ needs. The number of people forcibly displaced reached new highs.
Humanitarian organizations faced a variety of obstacles in their efforts to alleviate suffering, including violence, bureaucratic impediments and shortages of vital supplies such as food and medicine.
Armed conflict continued to be a primary driver of hunger. Valuable farming equipment was stolen, agricultural land was littered with explosive ordnance, and livestock and crops were destroyed. Conflict also disrupted agriculture and trade, leading to a shortage of basic supplies and agricultural products.
This, coupled with additional factors such as the armed conflict in Ukraine, led to higher food prices and reduced access to necessary supplies for food preparation and distribution. Furthermore, the destruction of vital infrastructure, shortages of electricity and fuel, and extreme weather events all contributed to the scarcity of water.
Throughout 2022, armed conflict exacted a massive human toll, eroding resilience and straining what remained of essential infrastructure and services. Civilian death and injury, enforced disappearance, torture, rape and ill -treatment were reported across many armed conflicts...
* Note: The civilian casualities cited in this report are only official state recognised calculations and are a most considerable under-estimation of the terrible toll inflicted on civilians in conflict. For example this: "In 2022, the United Nations recorded at least 16,988 civilian deaths across 12 armed conflicts.. although actual figures are likely higher". When consideration is given to the uncounted victims of conflict and the indirect impacts of conflict, particularly on the health of populations, the calculations should tragically cite many hundreds of thousands..

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UN, aid agencies condemn fighting between Sudanese forces call for permanent ceasefire
by United Nations news, agencies
30 May 2023
Sudan conflict leaves 13.6 million children in desperate need of humanitarian aid. (UNICEF)
As the conflict in Sudan passes the six-week mark, over 13.6 million children are in urgent need of lifesaving humanitarian support, the highest number ever recorded in the country. The impact of ongoing violence continues to threaten the lives and futures of families and children, leaving basic services cut off and many health facilities closed, damaged, or destroyed.
The need for humanitarian assistance has never been more critical for children in Sudan, as the most vulnerable populations struggle to survive and be protected. Access to basic necessities is becoming increasingly difficult to secure. Prior to the conflict, nearly nine million children were already in urgent need of humanitarian aid.
"As the conflict in Sudan rages on, the toll on children continues to grow more devastating by the day,” said Adele Khodr, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“These children are not just numbers, they are individuals with families, dreams and aspirations. They are the future of Sudan, and we cannot stand by while their lives are torn apart by violence. The children of Sudan deserve a chance to survive and thrive. No efforts should be spared by all actors to protect the children and their rights".
A situation that was already dire for children before the conflict is now at catastrophic levels, with access to food, safe water, electricity, and telecommunications unreliable, inaccessible and unaffordable. Over one million people have fled their homes and are internally displaced in Sudan, including 319,000 who have crossed into neighbouring countries so far, half of whom are believed to be children.
Without an immediate and extensive humanitarian response, the consequences of displacement, lack of basic social services, and protection will have devastating - and long-term - effects on children.
UNICEF is appealing for funding to meet the urgent needs of children, including to expand the treatment of over 620,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, half of whom may die if not helped in time.
* 31 May 2023: At least 60 infants and toddlers have perished while trapped in harrowing conditions in an orphanage in Sudan’s capital as fighting raged outside. Most died from lack of food and from fever. Twenty-six died in two days over the weekend. The extent of the children’s suffering emerged from interviews with doctors, volunteers and workers at the al-Mayqoma orphanage in Khartoum. The Associated Press reviewed images and videos showing the deteriorating conditions at the facility.
Video taken by orphanage workers shows bodies of children tightly bundled in white sheets awaiting burial. Among the dead were babies as young as three months, according to orphanage officials and workers for charities now helping the facility. The weekend was particularly deadly, with 14 children perishing on Friday and 12 more on Saturday.
This raised alarm and outrage across social media, and a local charity was able to deliver some food, medicine and baby formula to the orphanage on Sunday, with the help of the UN children’s agency, Unicef, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Orphanage workers warned that more children could die, and called for their speedy evacuation out of war-torn Khartoum. At least 341 children remain at the orphanage, including 165 infants between the ages of one and six months and 48 ranging from seven to 12 months. The remaining 128 children were between the ages of one and 13 years.
10 May 2023
Hunger set to hit record high in Sudan as fighting continues (WFP)
Clashes between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continue for 27 consecutive days, resulting into internal displacement of 736,223 individuals while 177,116 people crossed the border to neighboring countries.
Prices of food, fuel and other basic goods are skyrocketing, making critical goods unaffordable for many people.
In Khartoum the capital, 61 per cent of health facilities are closed and only 16 per cent are operating as normal, leaving millions of people without access to health care.
The UN World Food Programme has warned that an additional 2 - 2.5 million people in Sudan are expected to slip into hunger in the coming months as a result of the ongoing violence in the country. This would take acute food insecurity in Sudan to record levels, with more than 19 million people affected, two fifths of the population.
The cost of food is soaring all across the country, and the price of basic food items is expected to increase by at least 25 percent in the coming months. If farmers are prevented from accessing their fields and planting key staples between May and July, it will drive food prices even higher.
Insecurity and violence forced WFP to temporarily pause its operations in Sudan, but it has since restarted them. Current operations are focused on assisting some 384,000 people, including families who have recently fled the conflict, pre-existing refugees and internally displaced people and the vulnerable communities hosting them.
In the coming months, WFP is appealing for funds to scale up its emergency assistance to support 4.9 million vulnerable people in areas where the security situation allows, in addition to preventing and treating acute malnutrition for 600,000 children under five and pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Prior to the outbreak of conflict, WFP had a funding gap of more than US$300 million for its life-saving operations, and the needs are expected to rise significantly with the crisis.
Supporting immediate needs in neighbouring countries
The conflict has triggered displacement within and outside Sudan, with people fleeing to neighbouring countries needing basics like shelter, food and water.
In Chad, WFP has provided emergency food assistance to new arrivals and has so far reached over 16,000 people. But the response is at risk because of a low level of funding for operations in Chad. Over 40,000 people have already crossed into South Sudan, where WFP is providing meals each day at transit centres as well as nutrition screening for children and pregnant or breastfeeding women. For under-resourced WFP programs in South Sudan, more funding is needed to support new arrivals.
In Egypt, which is seeing a large influx of refugees, WFP is working with the Egyptian Red Crescent (ERC) to provide food assistance to those fleeing the crisis in Sudan. WFP is coordinating with the Government of Egypt, ERC and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to start emergency food distribution of food rations to displaced families arriving from Sudan.
In the Central African Republic, nearly 10,000 people have crossed the border from Sudan and reached Amdafock in Vakaga prefecture. WFP is responding and plans to assist nearly 25,000 new arrivals expected over the coming days. The Vakaga prefecture is seeing ‘Emergency’ levels of hunger and the increase in food needs with new arrivals from Sudan is putting pressure on the already scarce WFP resources in the country.
WFP remains committed to the people of Sudan and calls on all parties to the conflict to take immediate steps to stop the fighting and facilitate the humanitarian access so that WFP can scale up operations in a country with some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the world.
May. 2023
Plight of civilians amid hostilities. (OHCHR)
Two weeks after the fighting erupted between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) – imposing fear, deprivation, trauma and suffering on the civilian population – the human rights situation in Sudan continues to dramatically deteriorate.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes to find places of greater safety, at any cost, and have been facing abuses en route.
Thousands remain trapped in residential areas where fighting has been taking place, facing air strikes, shelling and the use of heavy weapons, trying to use any period of calm to reach places of relative safety.
People also continue to be forced from their homes by the RSF and suffer looting, extortion, acute shortages of food, water, electricity, fuel, limited access to healthcare, limited communication and limited cash due to the closure of banks.
Clashes continue to be reported in densely populated areas of Khartoum, Bahri, Omdurman and towns in Darfur and North Kordofan. We are concerned at the serious risk of violence escalating in West Darfur as the hostilities between the RSF and SAF have triggered intercommunal violence. In El Geneina, West Darfur, deadly ethnic clashes have been reported, with over 100 people killed.
It is deeply alarming that inmates have been released from, or escaped from, a number of prisons. We are very worried about the prospect of further violence, amid a generalized climate of impunity.
We call on the parties to immediately end hostilities, and in particular to halt hostilities in residential areas and to cease targeting the civilian population and infrastructure. The protection of civilians must be paramount. International humanitarian law demands it.
Following decades of repression, armed conflict and deprivation, the people of Sudan must not be subjected to further violations of their fundamental human rights. We call on all those with influence to use every possible means to de-escalate the situation and to stand in solidarity with the Sudanese people in their demands for a peaceful and democratic future.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk underscores the deep yearning and determination for freedom of the Sudanese people – who overthrew a military dictatorship of 30 years and resisted the subsequent military takeover with great courage. It is unfathomable that once again force is being used against them. The guns must be silenced and reason must prevail.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the violence wracking Sudan had “taken a terrible toll on health”.
“On top of the number of deaths and injuries caused by the conflict itself, WHO expects there will be many more deaths due to disease outbreaks, lack of access to food and water, and disruptions to essential health services, including immunization”, he said.
WHO estimates that one in four of the lives lost so far could have been saved with access to basic emergency medical treatment for the wounded.
“But paramedics, nurses and doctors are unable to access injured civilians, and civilians are unable to access services. In the capital Khartoum, 61 per cent of health facilities are closed, and only 16 per cent are operating as normal.”
As the fighting continues, the UN is preparing for a mass influx of refugees into countries across the region bordering Sudan, including the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. The refugee agency UNHCR, estimates that over 800,000 people may flee the violence in Sudan.
UNHCR is calling on all countries neighbouring Sudan to keep their borders open to those fleeing the violence, in fear of their lives, and called for funding support to deal with the new displacements.
In a joint statement, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, and the Special Representative on Violence against Children, Najat Maalla M’jid, said they were alarmed at the reported numbers of civilian deaths, including children.
“The lives, protection and well-being of children must take precedence over combat operations, and we call on all parties to halt hostilities and to ensure full protection of all children.
“Parties should further refrain from attacking civilian infrastructures in accordance with international humanitarian law, especially those impacting children – this includes schools and medical facilities as well as water and sanitation systems”.
(Since fighting began in Sudan, cease-fires have been repeatedly negotiated only to be repeatedly broken).
21 Apr. 2023
UN coordinator calls for urgent ‘ceasefire’ in Sudan, as death toll mounts. (UN News)
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan called on both sides in the military power struggle to immediately “implement an immediate ceasefire” to allow civilians and aid workers to access essential supplies.
“I am horrified by the toll the clashes are having on civilians”, said Abdou Dieng. “At least 500 people have been killed nationwide, including five aid workers, and over 4,000 have been injured.” The actual numbers are considered to be far higher.
The fighting between troops from the national army and a powerful rival militia known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has had a devastating impact on civilian life and the major on-going humanitarian aid operation across Sudan.
Latest news reports indicate that bombing, shelling and gunfire have continued, especially in the capital Khartoum.
Some 15.8 million people in Sudan, one-third of the population, were in need of humanitarian assistance before this week’s fighting began.
Mr. Dieng said that even short agreed pauses in the intense fighting between the rival factions, which have so far ignored all calls for a ceasefire, would allow civilians access to essential food and water.
“Access to health facilities is also paramount. Many hospitals have had to close. And in those that are functioning, widespread blackouts and lack of electricity place patients at high risk.” Several hospitals have simply run out of blood and other lifesaving supplies.
“Assaults on hospitals, humanitarian staff and facilities must stop”, said the Humanitarian Coordinator. “I call on all parties to the conflict to immediately end the fighting and work towards a peaceful resolution.”
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has issued an urgent call for a ceasefire, as the “first step” towards a permanent cessation of hostilities, noting that humanitarian operations had become “virtually impossible”.
The UN alone has a 4,000-strong team of humanitarian workers, 3,200 of whom are Sudanese nationals.
According to the latest statement from UN aid coordination office OCHA, there have been reports of military strikes against health facilities, hijacking of ambulances with patients and paramedics still on board, looting of health facilities, and military forces occupying health facilities.
In hospitals, there are severe shortages of medical staff, oxygen supplies and blood bags, according to the World Health Organization, while lack of electricity and blackouts place hospital patients at high risk.
As of Friday morning, heavy gunfire, air strikes and shelling have been reported in different parts of the country, OCHA added, especially in North, Central and South Darfur states, North Kordofan and in the capital, Khartoum.
On 20 April, there were reports of intensified clashes in El Obeid, North Kordofan State, as well as unrest and rising tensions in Gedaref, in eastern Sudan.
The head of the UN Women, Sima Bahous, also issued a statement expressing grave concern over the effect of the relentless fighting on Sudanese women and girls.
“As in all crises, this will surely have dire and disproportionate impacts on the lives of Sudanese women and girls.
“The resilience of Sudanese women is a source of hope, their role in the pursuit of peace essential, their strength as humanitarian workers, carers and protectors an inspiration”, said Ms. Bahous. “We must heed their calls for a ceasefire and peace and commit to supporting them in everything they do.”
17 Apr 2023
Fighting in Sudan must stop - Statement by UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths. (OCHA)
The latest outbreak of fighting in Sudan is a devastating setback for the people of the country. Even before this violence, humanitarian needs were already at an all-time high in Sudan, with one third of the population – a staggering 16 million people – in need of humanitarian aid.
I am deeply concerned by the mounting deaths and injuries, which will only increase further as fighting rages on in urban areas.
Reports that hospitals and water and electrical infrastructure have come under attack are extremely alarming.
The clashes are preventing people – especially in cities – from accessing food, water, education, fuel and other critical services for their families. Health services, already precarious, could be further pushed to the brink.
This renewed fighting only aggravates what was already a fragile situation, forcing UN agencies and our humanitarian partners to temporarily shutter many of our more than 250 programmes across Sudan.
The impacts of this suspension will be felt immediately, especially in the areas of food security and nutritional support, in a country where some 4 million children and pregnant and lactating women are severely malnourished.
I am horrified by the deaths of humanitarian workers, including three World Food Programme staff members. I am also disturbed by reports of large-scale looting of aid and damage to humanitarian facilities, which will only hamper our efforts to reach those in need. The fighting must stop.
Humanitarian aid must safely reach those who need it. People must be able to safely access basic services, commodities and humanitarian assistance. Hospitals and infrastructure essential for the supply of water and electricity must be protected.
16 Apr. 2023
Sudan: Fighting in densely populated areas endangers civilian lives; Humanitarian organizations must be able to reach those in need. (ICRC)
As clashes continue in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities, heavy gunfire and blasts are happening in the proximity of densely populated residential areas and civilian infrastructure with civilian casualties being reported in various locations.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) calls on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. This includes facilitating the work of humanitarian organizations, taking all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injuries and loss of life, ensuring quick access and safety for ambulances and medical personnel, and treating all detainees humanely.
"We are extremely worried that the fighting is affecting densely populated areas. People are seeking cover in their houses," said Alfonso Verdu Perez, the head of the ICRC delegation in Sudan. "We call on all parties to facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations so that we can help those in need."
People living in large cities like Khartoum are heavily dependent on public infrastructure. Any damage to these facilities can disrupt essential services like healthcare, water and power. The ICRC, together with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS), is closely monitoring the humanitarian situation in Khartoum and other parts of the country and is ready to respond to urgent humanitarian needs once the situation allows.
The Islamic Relief aid agency said it was extremely concerned at the new escalation of violence in Sudan, which risks exacerbating the country’s humanitarian crisis. More than 15 million across Sudan people are already suffering from food shortages and rampant inflation.
Sudan has one of the world’s highest rates of child malnutrition, with more than 3 million children malnourished and the number is increasing. Many families cannot afford regular food as the depreciation of the Sudanese currency, as well as the impact of the war in Ukraine and Sudan’s political crisis, has caused the price of food to skyrocket. Staple food such as sorghum and millet have risen by 700 percent in the last few years and are 60 percent higher than a year ago.
Save the Children’s Country Director in Sudan, Arshad Malik, said:
“While fighting is ongoing, there are international legal obligations to take all necessary precautions to protect civilians and civilian objects, including schools and hospitals, which are protected under International Humanitarian Law. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas should also be avoided as it risks severe harm to civilians, in particular children. We call on all parties to the violence to halt the fighting immediately, before more lives are lost.”
Much of the fighting is currently reportedly taking place in the capital area, where roughly 12 million of the country's 46 million people live.
The violence has left many civilians trapped indoors and desperately seeking essential supplies. Many are running out of food and water. It has become dangerous to venture out of the homes to restock on supplies. News agencies reported the streets of Khartoum are littered with dead bodies.
"Thousands upon thousands of civilians are trapped in their homes, shielding from the fighting, with no electricity, unable to venture out and worried about running out of food, drinking water and medicine," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk.
15 Apr 2023
Following reports of armed fighting in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on Saturday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the head of the UN Mission in the country, issued statements strongly condemning the violence, as other senior officials voiced alarm.
They were responding to the outbreak of armed clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in many parts of the capital Khartoum and other areas outside the capital.
The RSF, an independent Sudanese paramilitary force, grew out of the notorious Janjaweed militia, formerly active in the Darfur region of the country. The organization has been involved in talks aimed at a transition from the military rule in place since the 2021 military coup, to a civilian government.
'Immediately cease hostilities'
The Spokesperson for the Secretary-General noted the UN chief’s call for the leaders of the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces to “immediately cease hostilities, restore calm and initiate a dialogue to resolve the current crisis,” and for Member States in the region to support efforts to restore order and return to the path of transition to civilian rule.
The integration of the RSF into the armed forces has been one of the issues under discussion, as part of a UN-backed political agreement reached in February, following months of negotiations.
Mr. Guterres underlined the “devastating” impact that any further escalation in the fighting would have on civilians, further aggravating the already precarious humanitarian situation in the country for the 16 million people in need of humanitarian aid.
An update on the humanitarian situation in Sudan, released on 13 April by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), noted that humanitarian needs across Sudan are at an all-time high, with conflict one of the four most significant risks, alongside natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and economic deterioration.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has temporarily halted all operations, as a result of the fighting between rival military groups in Sudan, which led to the deaths of three WFP employees. The Executive Director of the UN agency, Cindy McCain said the workers were carrying out life-saving duties in Kabkabiya, North Darfur.
“WFP is committed to assisting the Sudanese people facing dire food insecurity,” said Ms. McCain. "All parties must come to an agreement that ensures the safety of humanitarian workers on the ground and enables the continued delivery of life saving humanitarian assistance to the people of Sudan. They remain our top priority.”
The World Health Organisation says at least 500 people have been killed and more than 4,000 people injured across the country. Nine hospitals have been hit by artillery and 16 had to be evacuated, the Sudanese Doctors’ Union said, with none operating fully inside the capital. “The hospitals are completely collapsed, devoid of all necessities. It’s past catastrophic…,” said Sudan’s Red Crescent spokesperson Osama Othman.

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