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WorldAfricaAmid a stifling siege, the capital of North Darfur is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster

Amid a stifling siege, the capital of North Darfur is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster

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It seems that the Darfur region of Sudan is on the verge of a new humanitarian catastrophe with the escalation of battles around the city of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, where about a million people are trapped inside in harsh humanitarian conditions, as revealed by the British newspaper The Guardian.

The humanitarian situation in El Fasher is seriously deteriorating, with the besieged population facing severe shortages of food, medicine and basic services. Malnutrition and diseases are also widespread among civilians, especially children and pregnant women, with alarmingly high death rates, according to the newspaper and reports of international organizations.

The city of El Fasher is home to large numbers of internally displaced people, including hundreds of thousands who have fled ethnic violence in Darfur over the past two decades. With the increase in violence since April last year, and after the two most powerful armed groups in the region pledged to fight alongside the army against the Rapid Support Forces, fears rose about the possibility of a large-scale massacre.

Very complicated situation

Within one year, the war in Sudan between the army led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces led by Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo led to thousands of deaths, including up to 15,000 people in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, according to United Nations experts.

The war also pushed the country, with a population of 48 million, to the brink of famine, destroyed the already dilapidated infrastructure, and displaced more than 8.5 million people, according to the United Nations.

The forces of Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, currently control four of the capitals of the five states that make up the western region of the country, except for El Fasher, where about 800,000 displaced people have taken refuge, according to United Nations data.

Musa Muhammad Tom Al-Hazil, Director General of Doctors Worldwide Organisation (DWWO), confirms that the humanitarian situation in North Darfur state and its capital, El Fasher, is “extremely complex.”

Al-Huzail reveals that communications with a number of areas of the state are cut off, and it is difficult to reach them due to security complications and the heavy presence of various forces there.

The same spokesman says that the city witnessed the movement of two hundred thousand displaced civilians towards other, safer areas, and others intend to take the same step, in anticipation of a further deterioration of the situation in light of the escalating fighting.

At the end of April, Doctors Without Borders said that a mass examination conducted between March and April of more than 63,000 children under the age of five and pregnant and breastfeeding women confirmed a “catastrophic and life-threatening malnutrition crisis in Zamzam camp, North Darfur” for displaced people.

For his part, Gado Mohamedou, director of Doctors Without Borders for North Darfur, revealed to The Guardian newspaper that a child dies every 24 hours in the camp.

He reported that the rate of acute malnutrition reached 7.4 percent, which he described as “extremely high.”

For her part, Claire Nicolet, head of the emergency response for MSF in Sudan, explained in a statement, “The situation is critical, the level of suffering is enormous. As the fighting escalates, we are very concerned that it will make it more difficult for the international support that we have long called for to reach.”

In turn, Al-Huzail explains that Al-Fasher Teaching Hospital and other hospitals in the region “suffer from a severe shortage of medical supplies and their ability to provide their services,” in addition to a power outage in a large part of them.

He points out that the main hospital in El Fasher has only about 100 beds, and they are completely filled, and that sick people and numbers of wounded and wounded cannot find a place for treatment and move from one health facility to another.

The spokesman also points out the problem of food shortages among the people of the region, noting that many aid trucks containing food and humanitarian aid are “stuck and unable to reach the population.”

He points out the suffering faced by a number of humanitarian service providers in arriving and leaving the region, in addition to the weak coordination and communication with them as a result of communication problems.

“Extreme danger”

For several weeks, international warnings have increased about the dangers of bloody clashes in El Fasher, which is the only large city in Darfur that is still under the control of the army in the western region.

Senior United Nations officials warned the Security Council, a few days ago, that about 800,000 people in El Fasher are at “extreme and immediate danger” as violence worsens and threatens to “unleash bloody intercommunal strife throughout Darfur.”

The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, also warned of “a large-scale massacre… disaster on top of a disaster” if the Rapid Support Forces enter El Fasher, as published on the official website of the United States Mission to the United Nations.

Sudanese political analyst, Muhammad Turshin, says that the city is experiencing “real problems,” following “the Rapid Support Forces deliberately imposing a siege on the city to prevent the arrival of basic goods and supplies on which civilians depend.”

The Sudanese researcher residing in Paris said that the city depends on food commodities coming from northern Sudan and Libya, and therefore the recent siege had major negative repercussions on the lives of civilians.

On the other hand, the Rapid Support Advisor, Muhammad Mukhtar, denies that the forces have imposed any siege on the city stressing that civilians have continued to move freely around the city over the past months, whose roads remain impassable.

Mukhtar said that The forces opened safe crossings for civilians and allow the entry of all goods that come from humanitarian organizations from neighboring countries,” noting that he challenges any organization or person to prove that Rapid Support refused to bring any humanitarian aid into the region.”

The same spokesman confirms that the command has issued directives in all the areas it controls for the freedom of entry of humanitarian goods and their entry shall be secured, and the same applies to commercial convoys that enter the city and leave it safely,” noting that the restriction “only includes providing military support to the army forces.”

According to the Guardian newspaper, El Fasher is considered a humanitarian center for Darfur and hosts a large number of internally displaced people, including hundreds of thousands who were displaced due to ethnic violence in Darfur.

Serious concerns are raised about the impact on civilians if the RSF and allied militias decide to launch a large-scale invasion, not only about the fighting itself but also about the potential for atrocities.

In this aspect, Turchin points out that the city “is witnessing the spread of a group of displaced persons’ camps that host tens of thousands of people fleeing the Darfur war between the years 2003 and 2010, in addition to thousands of people who also fled from other regions during the recent war.”

Turchin stresses that “the Rapid Support Forces’ insistence on entering the city and tightening its grip on it portends more disastrous and tragic conditions, especially since the confrontations were violent during the past days.”

A “primary target” in the conflict

Nearly 27 people were killed and 130 wounded, on Friday, in battles between the army and the Rapid Support Forces in the city of El Fasher in Darfur, more than a year after the outbreak of war between the two parties disputing for power, according to what the United Nations announced on Sunday.

Residents contacted by Agence France-Presse said by phone that “planes bombed the east and north of the city on Sunday, and there was an exchange of artillery shelling.”

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs confirmed on Sunday that “battles took place on May 10 between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces in El Fasher, North Darfur, resulting in the deaths of approximately 27 people, the wounding of 130, and the displacement of hundreds.”

Sudanese journalist and writer, Othman Turath, says that the city of El Fasher has become a “major target” for the battles for territorial control waged by the Rapid Support Forces, after they previously controlled the states of the east, south, center, and west of the region.

Turath said in a statement to media that the forces spread across large areas of North Darfur, and tightened their control over the state capital, El-Fasher, from four main directions.

Despite the announcement by the army forces and allied armed movements on April 10 that they had achieved a major victory over the Rapid Support Forces in El Fasher and inflicted heavy losses on them, Turath says, “The battle of El Fasher seems far from being resolved in light of recent data.”

The Sudanese analyst confirms that the facts confirm the determination of Hemedti’s forces to control the city, in exchange for the efforts of the army and rapid support forces to defend it, which “foreshadows more intense battles, unless the two main parties to the war reach a truce agreement, whether at the level of Sudan as a whole, or In the state of North Darfur, as happened previously after the intervention of notables of the native administration.”

The same spokesman stresses that the military control over the city of El Fasher “acquires its exceptional importance from the strategic importance that the city enjoys, given its distinguished geographical location, as it overlooks Chad in the west, and opens to the northern deserts towards the border with Libya.”

In addition, Turath says, the city “is the main stronghold of the most prominent armed struggle movements, especially the war against the army and Rapid Support forces, when they represented a single alliance during the era of the ousted president, Omar al-Bashir.”


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Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa
Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa
Editor-in-chief, The Eastern Herald. Counter terrorism, diplomacy, Middle East affairs, Russian affairs and International policy expert.

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