June 20, 2024

UN Secretary-General Calls for Immediate Ceasefire in Sudan Amidst Rising Death Toll

UN Secretary-General António Guterres
UN Secretary-General António Guterres

As violent clashes continue across Sudan, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for an “immediate” ceasefire and urged the leaders of the Rapid Support Forces (RAF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) to protect civilians, restore calm, and begin a dialogue to resolve the crisis.

The UN’s Special Representative for Sudan, Volker Perthes, has reported that more than 180 people have been killed and 1,800 injured in the clashes. Some UN facilities have been looted and destroyed, and some non-essential staff will have to be evacuated. The crisis began with armed clashes on Saturday between forces from the SAF and those of his deputy who leads the paramilitary RAF.

Mr. Perthes is currently in constant contact with leaders of both sides and is trying to cement a daily three-hour humanitarian ceasefire. However, both parties are not giving the impression that they want mediation right away, rather they are calling on the other side to surrender or disband.

The UN has been forced to temporarily halt much of its operations due to the fighting, with no access into or out of the country, and the borders and airport remaining closed. The crossfire at Khartoum airport has damaged a UN plane, potentially seriously impacting the ability to reach remote parts of Sudan, where needs are highest. Currently, 3.7 million people are displaced in Sudan.

The situation has already led to horrendous loss of life, including many civilians, and the UN is urging all those with influence over the deteriorating situation to press for peace and support efforts to end the violence, restore order, and return to the path of transition. The UN is also calling for those responsible for the deaths of three employees of the UN World Food Programme in the restive Darfur region to be brought to justice without delay.

As the death toll mounts and the situation worsens, the urgency for a ceasefire and peaceful resolution only grows stronger.

Meanwhile, the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority, and the UN trilateral mechanism have called for a humanitarian pause in Sudan to protect civilians amidst the ongoing violent clashes. Ten UN agencies and over 80 non-governmental organizations have been running more than 250 programs in Sudan, but with the deteriorating situation, they have been forced to halt operations.

The UN’s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, expressed horror at the deaths and looting of aid and urged parties to halt the fighting. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) also called for the de-escalation of the situation and urged all parties to protect civilians and humanitarian staff.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the already precarious humanitarian situation in Sudan is now catastrophic, with an estimated 15 million people facing acute food insecurity. The situation has been made worse by the temporary suspension of operations by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) due to the threat to the safety of its teams. Three WFP employees were tragically killed in North Darfur while carrying out their life-saving duties.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also warned of shortages of life-saving medical supplies in health facilities, with many hospitals reporting shortages of blood, transfusion equipment, intravenous fluids, and other medical supplies. WHO has repositioned trauma supplies and medical goods in hospitals in Khartoum and other states, but the level of need has exceeded expectations.

The fighting has grossly violated international humanitarian law, with up to three medical staff killed, and armed forces attacking several health facilities, occupying them as bases for further attacks. WHO has called on the fighting parties to respect the neutrality of health facilities, refrain from targeting them, and vacate the hospitals they are occupying.

The situation in Sudan remains chaotic and fast-moving, with casualty estimates likely to be an underestimate. Urgent calls for a ceasefire and peaceful resolution of the conflict are growing louder as the humanitarian situation deteriorates.

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