The U.N.’s humanitarian agency is warning that the situation for civilians in Sudan’s volatile Darfur region is worsening as fighting between the country’s two rival armed groups escalates and inter-communal tensions rise.
It reports renewed clashes between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in all four corners of Darfur “have killed dozens of civilians and wounded many more; thousands have been displaced and civilian property has been destroyed or damaged.”
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, reports at least 17 people were killed and 35 were injured over the past week in Nyala in South Darfur, and 17,500 people fled their homes in search of safety.
It said military clashes and intercommunal fighting also have been reported in North and Central Darfur, with more people being killed and displaced.
“Darfurians have suffered enough, not least women, in the past and in the current conflict,” said Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesperson.
“Overall, in Sudan, more than 5.7 million people have been forced from their homes and 25 million, more than half of the population, now need humanitarian assistance,” he said.
Some 9,000 people have been killed and thousands more have been injured since two rival generals plunged the country into war on April 15, OCHA estimates. It reports 4.6 million have become newly displaced inside Sudan, and more than 1 million people have fled as refugees into neighboring countries.
According to the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, the refugee flow from Sudan appears to be unstoppable.
William Spindler, UNHCR spokesperson, said that the UNHCR’s director of external relations, who currently is on the border in White Nile State, reports that more than 10,000 people have arrived from Sudan into South Sudan in just the past few days.
“We have seen a sharp increase in the last week of 15% more people arriving than in the previous week,” said Spindler, noting that the makeup of the new arrivals was different than before.
U.N. human rights officials reported Friday that an increasing number of women and girls in the Darfur region have been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by men affiliated with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
They said women and girls reportedly are being held in inhumane, degrading, slave-like conditions, where they allegedly are forcibly married and held for ransom.
“Credible information from survivors, witnesses, and other sources suggests more than 20 women and girls have been taken, but the number could be higher,” said Liz Throssel, human rights spokesperson.
“Some sources have reported seeing women and girls in chains on pickup trucks and in cars,” she said.
She said this shocking situation most likely is much worse than the numbers indicate, noting that cases of conflict-related sexual violence are never fully reported because of the shame attached to these violations.
“According to our documentation, at least 105 people have been subjected to sexual violence since the hostilities began on 15 April, 2023,” Throssel said.
“At least 70% of the confirmed incidents of sexual violence recorded — 37 incidents in total — are attributed to men in RSF uniforms, eight to armed men affiliated with the RSF, two to men in unidentified uniform, and one to the Sudan Armed Forces,” she said, adding that the remaining cases involved unidentified men.
Human rights officials are calling for the prompt release of the abducted women and girls, for all alleged cases of sexual violence to be investigated, and for perpetrators of the crimes to be brought to justice.
The RSF and the Sudanese army both have denied allegations of human rights abuses against civilians while accusing each other of committing rights violations.