Donors raise more than 2 billion euros for Sudan aid a year into war

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FILE PHOTO: A member of Sudanese armed forces looks on as he holds his weapon in the street in Omdurman, Sudan, March 9, 2024. REUTERS/El Tayeb Siddig/File Photo

By Elizabeth Pineau and Nafisa Eltahir Reuters

Donors pledged more than 2 billion euros ($2.13 billion) for war-torn Sudan at a conference in Paris on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said, on the first anniversary of what aid workers describe as a neglected but devastating conflict.

Efforts to help millions of people driven to the verge of famine by the war have been held up by continued fighting between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), restrictions imposed by the warring sides, and demands on donors from other global crises including in Gaza and Ukraine.

Conflict in Sudan is threatening to expand, with fighting heating up in and around al-Fashir, a besieged aid hub and the last city in the western Darfur region not taken over by the RSF. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people have sought refuge in the area.

“The world is busy with other countries,” Bashir Awad, a resident of Omdurman, part of the wider capital and a key battleground, told Reuters last week. “We had to help ourselves, share food with each other, and depend on God.”

In Paris, the EU pledged 350 million euros, while France and Germany, the co-sponsors, committed 110 million euros and 244 million euros respectively. The United States pledged $147 million and Britain $110 million.

Speaking at the end of the conference, which included Sudanese civilian actors, Macron emphasized the need to coordinate overlapping and so far unsuccessful international efforts to resolve the conflict and to stop foreign support for the warring parties.

“Unfortunately the amount that we mobilised today is still probably less than was mobilised by several powers since the start of the war to help one or the other side kill each other,” he said.

As regional powers compete for influence in Sudan, U.N. experts say allegations that the United Arab Emirates helped arm the RSF are credible, while sources say the army has received weapons from Iran. Both sides have rejected the reports.

AID EFFORTS IMPEDED

The war, which broke out between the Sudanese army and the RSF as they vied for power ahead of a planned transition, has crippled infrastructure, displaced more than 8.5 million people, and cut many off from food supplies and basic services.

“We can manage together to avoid a terrible famine catastrophe, but only if we get active together now,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said, adding that, in the worst-case scenario, 1 million people could die of hunger this year.

The United Nations is seeking $2.7 billion this year for aid inside Sudan, where 25 million people need assistance, an appeal that was just 6% funded before the Paris meeting. It is seeking another $1.4 billion for assistance in neighbouring countries that have housed hundreds of thousands of refugees.

The international aid effort faces obstacles to gaining access on the ground.

The army has said it would not allow aid into the wide swathes of the country controlled by its foes from the RSF. Aid agencies have accused the RSF of looting aid. Both sides have denied holding up relief.

“I hope the money raised today is translated into aid that reaches people in need,” said Abdullah Al Rabeeah, head of Saudi Arabia’s KSRelief.

On Friday, Sudan’s army-aligned foreign ministry protested that it had not been invited to the conference. “We must remind the organisers that the international guardianship system has been abolished for decades,” it said in a statement.

WAR CRIMES

The military factions, uneasy partners in the toppling of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and the overthrow of a government in 2021, have killed thousands of civilians, though death toll estimates are highly uncertain.

Each side has been accused of war crimes – which Macron said would not go unpunished – and the RSF and its allies have been blamed for ethnic cleansing in West Darfur. Both factions have largely denied the accusations against them.

In al-Fashir on Saturday, local activists reported that 40,000 people had fled their homes after RSF and allied militias raided and set fire to villages on the western outskirts of the city, killing at least 11.

The next day, fighting in the city including airstrikes by the army killed nine and injured 60, they said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday that any attack on al-Fashir could lead to “full-blown intercommunal conflict” in Darfur.

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