KHARTOUM/GENEVA: As Eid celebrations marking the end of the fasting month began, “several areas of Khartoum were bombed” and reported “shelling and clashes” for the sixth straight night, increasing the death toll to 413 according to the World Health Organisation.
The death toll is thought to be higher, however, with many wounded unable to reach hospitals.
The forces of two rival generals fought intense street battles in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Friday, witnesses reported, as the warring parties ignored appeals for an end-of-Ramazan ceasefire. Thousands of casualties have been reported since the fighting erupted a week ago between forces loyal to Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, the commander of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) who is commonly known as Hemeti.
WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters at a press briefing in Geneva on Friday that 413 people had been killed and 3,551 wounded in the fighting so far across Sudan. The UN migration agency said a staff member had been killed in fighting in southern Sudan when his vehicle was caught in crossfire.
Nine children, four humanitarian workers among victims
The humanitarian worker with the International Organisation for Migration is the fourth UN member of staff killed in less than a week, as earlier three employees of the World Food Programme were killed in the North Darfur region of eastern Sudan.
The UN children’s agency Unicef added that at least nine children were among the dead and more than 50 children had been wounded.
Soldiers and paramilitaries fought fierce street battles in residential areas of central and northern Khartoum, witnesses told AFP, with most of the city’s five million people sheltering at home in the baking heat without electricity, food or water.
Both UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called separately for a ceasefire of “at least” three days to mark Eid, as explosions and gunfire resounded in Khartoum.
The RSF said they would commit to a 72-hour ceasefire starting at dawn. However, like two previous declared 24-hour ceasefires, it failed to take hold.
The crackle of intense gunfire continued Friday morning, with columns of black smoke rising across the capital.
Citing Sudanese health ministry figures, the WHO spokeswoman said 20 health facilities had stopped functioning and another 12 were at risk of stopping. This would affect “not only the people who have been injured during this terrible fighting, but the people who were needing treatment before”, she noted.
“It’s taking a devastating toll on the country’s children,” Unicef spokesman James Elder told reporters.
“As long as fighting continues, children will continue to pay the price. The fighting means many families are trapped, with little or no access to electricity, terrified of running out of food, water and medicine.” He said Sudan already had one of the world’s highest rates of child malnutrition, with critical life-saving care now disrupted for an estimated 50,000 severely acutely malnourished children.
“When the bombing or shelling begins outside the hospital and where medical staff need to flee, then what?”
“We need forces to immediately cease hostilities and for all parties to respect their international obligations to protect children from harm,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2023