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UN urges Sudan neighbours to keep borders open as exodus tops 500,000

Death toll has risen above 2,000

By AFP - Jun 21,2023 - Last updated at Jun 21,2023

A child carries bags with bread as he walks in a street in Khartoum on Tuesday (AFP photo)

NAIROBI — The head of the UN's refugee agency on Tuesday urged Sudan's neighbours to keep their borders open despite security worries as the number of people fleeing the conflict topped 500,000, while those internally displaced climbed to 2 million.

Filippo Grandi warned in an interview with AFP that the two-month-old war threatened to spread insecurity in the "fragile" nations that border Sudan.

"My appeal to all the neighbouring countries is to say I understand your security concerns, but please keep your borders open because these people are really fleeing for their lives," he said during a visit to Nairobi to mark World Refugee Day.

Sudan has been riven by conflict since April 15, with the army led by Abdel Fattah Al Burhan battling the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commanded by his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

"It is a worrying situation. Many of these neighbouring countries are very fragile and there is also an element of insecurity that risks spreading," Grandi said.

The death toll in Sudan has risen above 2,000, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project's latest figures.

At an earlier press conference in the Kenyan capital, Grandi said that half a million refugees had fled Sudan since the beginning of the conflict, and another two million were internally displaced.

"If we don't silence those guns, the exodus of Sudanese people will continue," said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

 

'More of an effort' 

 

He was speaking a day after donors at a UN conference pledged close to $1.5 billion to combat the humanitarian crisis in Sudan and help its neighbours host those fleeing the fighting — including Chad, South Sudan and Egypt.

That figure was however less than half of what humanitarians have said is required this year and Grandi appealed to the international community to dig deeper, saying donations were a fraction of defence spending by rich nations.

"I'm not saying that military spending isn't necessary, that's not my field and I understand the logic, but humanitarian aid is a tiny, tiny fraction of all that.

“I can’t believe that we can’t make a bit more of an effort,” he said, urging Gulf states in particular to do more.

A record 25 million people — more than half of Sudan’s population — now depend on humanitarian aid, the United Nations says.

A 72-hour ceasefire agreed by the warring sides took effect on Sunday to allow access to aid, although a number of previous truces have collapsed.

“We are unfortunately gradually seeing the destruction of this country,” Grandi told AFP, echoing remarks made by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at Monday’s donor conference.

“It is a worrying situation because we have not seen much progress, if any, in the negotiations between the two generals who are fighting in the country,” Grandi said.

“This must stop because it risks having incalculable consequences in the region and beyond.”

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