UN chief calls for protection of civilians as violence spikes in Sudan’s West Darfur
New York: The United Nations Secretary-General has voiced deep concern over escalating violence in West Darfur and called on the Sudanese authorities to “expend all efforts” to end the fighting and protect civilians.
According to media reports, at least 83 people, including women and children, have been killed and more than 160 wounded in inter-communal clashes this weekend. Several houses are also said to have been destroyed and about 50,000 people displaced.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson on Sunday, Secretary-General António Guterres called on the Sudanese authorities to “expend all efforts to de-escalate the situation”.
He also called on them to “bring an end to the fighting, restore law and order and ensure the protection of civilians, in accordance with the Government’s National Plan for Civilian Protection.”
Mr. Guterres also expressed his condolences to the bereaved families and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.
The violence occurred about two weeks after the African Union-United Nations hybrid peacekeeping mission in the region (UNAMID) ended its operations at the end of 2020. UNAMID is currently drawing down and the process is expected to complete by the end of June 2021.
Millions in need of assistance
The vast Darfur region, roughly the size of Spain, has been plagued by conflict and inter-communal tensions for years. Millions have been displaced by the violence, including many who fled into neighbouring Chad.
According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), almost five million people there received humanitarian assistance between January and September 2020. Darfur is also one of the poorest regions in Sudan, with poverty rates as high as 67 per cent in Central Darfur. Several health facilities have also been closed due to lack of funds and staff.