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Sudan war marks one-year anniversary as donor conference held in Paris

Urgent appeal for humanitarian aid as displacement crisis worsens

A major political and donor conference will take place in Paris on Monday to mark the first anniversary of Sudan’s war, which is being called the worst displacement crisis in the world by the United Nations.

Senior aid officials have been holding weeks of briefings, as they appeal for more attention and funding for what is widely being called a “forgotten” war.

By Sunday, the United Nations Humanitarian Response plan for Sudan for 2024 was less than 6 per cent funded, with $155.2 million (€145.45 million) raised of a projected $2.7 billion needed.

Sudan – Africa’s third largest country geographically, with a population of roughly 45 million – erupted into conflict on April 15th, 2023. The Sudanese army, commanded by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has been fighting against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti.


Both sides stand accused of war crimes, and the full death toll is unknown, though a UN report found that as many as 15,000 people may have been killed in one West Darfur city last year in ethnic violence perpetrated by the RSF.

By March nine million people were displaced inside Sudan, two thirds as a result of the last year of fighting. More than 1.9 million more had fled into other countries, according to the UN.

Monday’s conference will be co-chaired by French foreign minister Stéphane Séjourné, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

“It is clear that the people of Sudan can no longer wait,” said Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, the secretary general for CARE International, in an online press conference last week. “This is a crisis within a crisis and the current war, which started a year ago, must be understood in that context of years of protracted conflict, economic hardship, suspensions of life-saving funding and climate shocks as well.”

She said that the Paris conference is a chance to “turn the tide”. It “must be a turning point in the global response to this conflict ... We need global leaders in Paris to take this opportunity to come up with immediate concrete solutions to the human tragedy that continues to unfold and of course it’s spilling over across the region.”

Anette Hoffmann, a senior research fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, accused both warring sides of “using starvation as a weapon of war”. She said her findings “suggest that Sudan is already experiencing famine-like conditions [in] parts of the country, particularly in RSF-controlled territories”.

Between May and September, she said, 7 million people are likely to face catastrophic levels of hunger, though that number could rise to 18 million.

Fatima Ahmed, the president of Sudanese women’s rights organisation Zenab for Women Development, said among everything else, this is a war “against the women and girls” with “violations and all kinds of abuse, sexual abuse”.

Sudan’s economy had contracted by about 40 per cent since the war began by February this year, the government has said, with finance minister Gibril Ibrahim suggesting it could shrink another 28 per cent in 2024.

In another online press conference on April 8th, Médecins Sans Frontières international president Christos Christou called Sudan “one of the worst crises the world has seen for decades” with “extreme levels of suffering across the country.”

He called on the UN to scale up its humanitarian response, saying that before the war “there were dozens of humanitarian actors in the country and now there is almost no one. It is vital that they return, despite the challenges”.

The suffering also extends to neighbouring countries, said Christou. In Chad, where more than 570,000 people fleeing the war have sought shelter, the situation in the camps is “devastating to see”.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa