Sudanese refugees gather to get food provided by the World Food Program near the border with Chad (Reuters)

Humanitarian experts have warned of the possibility that the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces will resort to using food as a new weapon in the battles that have been going on for more than 10 months, after Washington and international organizations accused both sides of the conflict of obstructing the arrival of humanitarian aid to those affected, pushing millions to the brink of famine.

The World Food Program said that the vast majority of Sudanese suffer from hunger “as a result of the war continuing in Sudan for the tenth month in a row.”

The director of the World Food Program in Sudan, Eddie Roe, said last Wednesday: “At this stage, less than 5% of Sudanese can afford a full meal a day.”

Earlier, the United Nations indicated that more than half of the Sudanese population, numbering more than 48 million, or about 25 million people, are now in need of assistance, including 18 million facing acute food insecurity.

Among them are “nearly 5 million on the brink of disaster,” which is the second-worst classification adopted by the World Food Program for emergencies after famine.

Forgotten in the camps

For his part, the spokesman for the Coordination of Displaced Persons and Refugees in Darfur, Adam Rijal, says, “The displaced people in the camps in the region are forgotten between death of hunger and being targeted by the war parties.”

In a statement to Al Jazeera Net, Rijal revealed that cases of acute malnutrition are on the rise in the camps, threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands, and calls on the international community to intervene to relieve the displaced.

He added that "the war between the army and the Rapid Support Forces caused the cessation of food rations provided by the World Food Program," in addition to the cessation of marginal professions that provided the displaced with a limited income to cover some of their living costs.

About 18 million people across Sudan suffer from acute hunger (Reuters)

Restricting aid

The United States expressed deep concern about the decision of the Sudanese Armed Forces to ban cross-border humanitarian aid from Chad and to obstruct aid from reaching local communities in areas controlled by the Rapid Support Forces.

The US State Department renewed - in a statement last Friday - its concern that the Rapid Support Forces are looting homes as well as markets and humanitarian aid warehouses in areas under their control, and that both sides are harassing humanitarian workers and obstructing the delivery of life-saving aid.

On the other hand, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected what it described as “false accusations” included in the US State Department statement accusing the government of Sudan of obstructing the arrival of humanitarian aid to civilians in the country.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said - in a statement - yesterday, Saturday, that it was surprised by what was stated in the US State Department statement, and explained that the American statement ignored the fact that the militias are spreading on the Sudanese-Chadian border, and “they are the primary crossing point for weapons and equipment that the militia uses to kill the Sudanese people.”

She criticized what she described as "the US administration's hesitant positions regarding the militias' disavowal of the Jeddah Declaration, its failure to take decisive steps regarding the militia's atrocities since that time, and its contradictory messages in this regard."

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry rejects the American accusations against the armed forces

The #Foreign_Ministry said that although the statement included that the militia is looting homes, markets, and food aid warehouses in the areas it controls, it blames the armed forces for the failure of aid to reach those areas!

- Electronic Change (@altaghyeersudan) February 24, 2024

Government justification

On the other hand, the Rapid Support Forces previously denied obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid, and said that during the Jeddah negotiations with the Sudanese army, they proposed delivering aid to the Darfur region via Chad and using the region’s airports that it controls to transport relief, but the army refused that, she said.

A military official in the army explained that they did not refuse to transport relief from abroad, but they demanded the implementation of the "Jeddah Declaration" of humanitarian principles.

He held the "rebel militia" responsible for starving citizens not in the areas affected by the battles, but in the safe states, by closing roads and looting aid convoys and trucks carrying goods and supplies, which led to the cessation of trade and the impossibility of obtaining food, he said.

The military official - who preferred to remain anonymous - told Al Jazeera Net that "the rebel militia wants to use the airports it controls in Darfur for military supplies and transporting mercenaries from abroad, and not use them for humanitarian aid," stressing that the army will not allow relief to be transported across the border from abroad except With guarantees, so that it is not exploited to support the “rebel militia,” as happened in Operation “Lifeline,” which was launched by the United Nations to provide relief to South Sudan during the civil war in the 1980s.

The official accused the "rebel militia" of looting food warehouses belonging to the World Food Program in El Obeid and Wad Madani, the capital of Gezira State, and said that it besieged citizens in several neighborhoods in Khartoum and prevented the arrival of food and medicine until the army expelled them from it in Omdurman.

Food weapon

Abdul Qader Hassan, a researcher at the International University of Africa in Sudan, believes that “food has become a new weapon in Sudan’s war,” as each party seeks to cut off the food supply to the other party to put pressure on it and weaken it.

In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, Hassan, who worked in the United Nations mission in Khartoum and currently has a Sudanese organization called “Waad,” explains that there is a missing link in delivering humanitarian aid to those affected in the areas of clashes, as an agreement was supposed to be signed between the two parties to the battles and the United Nations to ensure that Exploitation of humanitarian aid by any party.

He adds that transporting relief across the border from outside the country is possible if a team from the United Nations and both parties to the conflict is formed and inspected, so that it does not include any materials that can be used militarily or controlled by the party in whose areas of control it is distributed.

Source: Al Jazeera