KHARTOUM - Horrific violence and the risk of famine continue to stalk the people of Sudan, UN humanitarians warned on Friday, as they echoed condemnation by UN Secretary-General António Guterres of an attack on a village south of Khartoum two days ago that is now believed to have left more than 100 dead.

“The Secretary-General strongly condemns the attack reportedly carried out on 5 June by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the Wad Al-Noura village, Jazira state, which is said to have killed over 100 people,” his Spokesperson said in a statement overnight, which also underscored “the immense suffering of the Sudanese population as a result of the continued hostilities”.

“It is high time for all parties to silence their guns across Sudan and commit to a path towards sustainable peace for the Sudanese people.”

Briefing journalists in Geneva from Port Sudan, Mohamed Refaat, the UN migration agency (IOM)’s chief of mission in the country, highlighted “truly horrifying reports of violent attacks and casualties” in the village of Wad Al-Noura in Aj Jazirah state on Wednesday.

His comments came as unconfirmed video images showed dozens of bodies laid out for burial in the village following a reported assault by heavily armed RSF fighters, some 112 kilometres (70 miles) from the capital.

At least 35 children were believed to be among the dead, drawing strong condemnation from UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Catherine Russell.

“This is yet another grim reminder of how the children of Sudan are paying the price for the brutal violence,” she said in a statement late Thursday. “Over the past year, thousands of children have been killed and injured. Children have been recruited, abducted and subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence. Over five million children have been forced from their homes.

Concerns mounting: Rights chief

The UN’s top human rights official also expressed his shock upon learning of the killings in Wad Al-Noura, maintaining that the RSF had “used weapons with wide-area effects, including artillery shells, during the attack”.

“These killings add to my existing, serious concerns about the adherence to the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution under international humanitarian law by those involved in the fighting,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk.

“Those responsible for unlawful killings must be held accountable. How many more Sudanese civilians must die before the parties to the conflict stop the fighting?”

Darfurs flashpoint

At another flashpoint of the conflict, in North Darfur’s capital El Fasher in Sudan’s west, some 800,000 civilians are still in danger, amid intensified fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the rival RSF.

The location remains “inaccessible” to the UN either cross-line or cross-border, Mr. Refaat said.

He called for all parties to facilitate unimpeded aid access to the area “through all available routes” and stressed that the prices of water and fuel there have “skyrocketed”, making essentials unaffordable.

Internal displacement in Sudan since the start of the conflict on 15 April last year has almost reached the 10 million mark, IOM’s Mr. Refaat noted, with food insecurity an increasing factor in people’s decision to flee. Some 18 million people in the country are acutely hungry while 3.6 million children are acutely malnourished.

Refugees stranded

In addition to the internally displaced, over two million people have fled across Sudan’s borders into neighbouring countries, mainly Chad, South Sudan and Egypt, “often arriving in extremely vulnerable conditions and highly traumatized”, Mr. Refaat stressed.

The IOM spokesperson also warned of a threefold increase recorded by IOM last year in Sudanese “taking dangerous, irregular migration corridors into Libya, Tunisia, onward to Europe”. He quoted “unconfirmed reports” of some 2,000 families currently “stranded in hard conditions, including migrants between the borders between Egypt, Libya and Sudan”.

Chadian solidarity for most traumatized

Echoing his comments, Alpha Seydi Ba, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)’s regional spokesperson for West and Central Africa, spoke of the devastating situation in Chad, where over 600,000 Sudanese have arrived since the start of the crisis. “You've seen people coming on a daily basis by dozens in a very, very bad shape, and most of them are women, children who have experienced an unimaginable, unimaginable trauma,” he said.

Chad already hosted more than 400,000 Sudanese refugees before this crisis, Mr. Ba explained, before expressing the UN agency’s appreciation that the authorities “have kept their borders open”.

But responding to refugees’ basic needs such as shelter, food, access to education for children and psychological support has become increasingly challenging due to funding shortfalls.

UNHCR said that the response plan for five neighbouring countries hosting those who have fled Sudan, for a total of $1.4 billion, is only nine per cent funded. The humanitarian response inside Sudan remains only 16 per cent funded.

Healthcare collapse

Meanwhile, the UN health agency WHO sounded the alarm over the dire healthcare situation in the country, warning that it was “collapsing”.

WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told journalists in Geneva that some 65 per cent of the population now lack access to care. “Healthcare in Sudan typically relied heavily on Khartoum, where the health care system was decimated,” he explained.

“Only about 25 per cent of the medical supplies needed are available in the country. In hard-to-reach areas, only 20 to 30 per cent of health facilities remain functional, and even so, at a minimal level.”

Measles threat

The WHO spokesperson warned of a record number of measles cases in 2023 as vaccination rates declined due to the conflict.

“Unfortunately, we expect 2024 to be worse,” he added.

WHO said that cholera, malaria and dengue are also on the rise and expressed concern over the lack of treatment for people suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases and kidney failure.