On the final day of a ceasefire that has been repeatedly broken, fighting continues in Sudan as gunfire and artillery fire rock the capital, raising concerns that the six-week war will worsen. People reported hearing street fighting in the north of the city of Khartoum, which has turned into a war zone with a population of over 5 million, as well as artillery fire in the south.
Fearful locals have ventured outside since the truce started a week ago in an attempt to obtain food or water, the price of which has doubled since the war began. But thousands of families continue to shelter in place, rationing water and electricity while trying desperately to avoid stray gunfire.
In Darfur, on the western border with Chad, continued fighting “blatantly disregards ceasefire commitments”, according to Toby Harward, of the United Nations refugee agency.
“Intermittent fighting between Sudanese armed forces and Rapid Support Forces in El Fasher, north Darfur over the last few days” had led to civilians being killed, homes getting looted and tens of thousands of people newly displaced in the already war-ravaged region, Harward said.
The persistent fighting has impeded the delivery of essential humanitarian aid, upon which 25 million people – more than half the population – rely to survive, according to the UN.
Abdel Fattah al-Burhan
A week ago, representatives of the army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who commands the paramilitary RSF, pledged to pause the incessant airstrikes, artillery fire and street battles in order to allow in much-needed aid and let civilians flee.
But by the seventh day of the truce – set to expire at 9.45pm local time (2045 BST) on Monday – no one had secured humanitarian corridors, and aid had only trickled in to replenish the few hospitals that continue to function in the capital.
In East Darfur state, more than 30 infants have died in a single hospital since fighting began, including “six newborn babies who reportedly died in one week alone due to problems including lack of oxygen amid electricity blackouts”, according to the World Health Organization. Since 15 April, individuals have killed at least 1,800 people, displacing more than a million others within Sudan and causing nearly 350,000 to flee to other countries.
Sudan’s neighbouring countries – many already facing economic crises or mired in instability – fear regional spillover and have pleaded for aid from the UN, itself reporting severe financing gaps.
As fighting continues in Sudan , The UN sounded the alarm again on Monday, saying Sudan has become one of the highest-alert areas for food insecurity, requiring urgent action from the international community.
Aid agencies have also said that with the rainy season approaching in June, parts of the country will become inaccessible, while the risk of cholera, malaria and waterborne diseases will rise.
Sudan’s Fragile Health Sector
Sudan’s already fragile health sector faces compounded challenges, with three-quarters of hospitals in combat zones out of service, according to the doctors’ union. Even health facilities in areas largely untouched by fighting and looting are unable to replenish supplies as they scramble to serve an influx of those displaced by the war.
Both the army and the RSF have said they are willing to discuss extending the ceasefire, which US and Saudi mediators called for. But Riyadh and Washington say that “both parties are posturing for further escalation”.
On Sunday, the governor of Darfur – a former rebel leader allied with the military – called on civilians to take up arms.
The army had already instructed reservists and pensioners to arm themselves, while tribes in the country’s east had earlier made demands to receive weapons.
The Umma party, one of Sudan’s main civilian groups, cautioned “against calls to arm citizens under the pretext of protecting themselves”, which it said were “attempts to drag the country into civil war”.
Even with a potential extension of the truce, the UN warned there is a new latent danger amid “growing reports of unexploded ordnance” in the capital and other densely populated areas.