Cross-border humanitarian aid to Sudan halted

An estimated 25 million people in Sudan are in dire need of aid.

March 5, 2024, 11:58 AM

LONDON -- Cross-border humanitarian aid deliveries from Chad into Western Sudan have been halted, according to multiple aid organizations.

The halting of cross-border deliveries comes after Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs raised concerns that arms transfers to the Rapid Support Forces Paramilitary Group -- one of Sudan’s warring parties -- were being carried out via the border.

"The security and stability of the country cannot be compromised," Ali El Sadig, Sudan’s acting minister of foreign affairs, said from the Antalya Diplomatic Forum in Turkey.

Humanitarian organizations say there could be dire consequences if cross-border deliveries are no longer permitted.

"The World Food Program is extremely concerned about the humanitarian implications of halting cross-border aid deliveries from Chad into western Sudan," the organization said in a statement. "Already more than 1.7 million people in the Darfur region are one step away from catastrophic hunger. Without assistance, families that are already teetering on the edge of survival will face deeper levels of hunger and higher rates of malnutrition as needs continue to skyrocket in the region."

Aid groups say the humanitarian situation in Darfur is deteriorating and 37% of people displaced by the war in Sudan are seeking refuge in the region.

The conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces Paramilitary Group escalated in Sudan on April 15, 2023, following weeks of tensions linked to plans for a return to civilian rule.

At least 12,000 people have been killed in the conflict thus far, according to the United Nations. Local groups say the true toll is likely to be much higher.

In a statement, the European Union’s High Representative Joseph Borrell and Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said the ban on cross-border deliveries into Western Sudan "directly contradicts commitments made by the parties to the conflict in Sudan in the Jeddah declaration to protect civilians and to facilitate increased humanitarian assistance."

"These commitments are essential for mitigating the impact of the conflict on civilian populations and ensuring their basic needs are met," they said in a statement.

Due to escalating attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sed, shipping times and fees to Sudan’s primary aid hub, Port Sudan, have increased.

"Shipments that took one or two weeks, maximum, now take months to reach us," said Eatizaz Yousif of the International Rescue Committee.

In a statement to ABC News, the U.S. State Department said it is "gravely concerned" about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sudan: "Five to six million people are at risk of acute starvation by May. We already have reports of people starving to death in Sudan and babies dying every day at IDP camps in Sudan."

The statement continued, "While authorities understandably want to limit the shipment of arms across that border, it is unacceptable to deny the movement of humanitarian aid which is a death sentence to the many vulnerable civilians in Darfur. Armed actors have raided humanitarian facilities and looted supplies, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars' worth of supplies intended for those in greatest need. Although the RSF and SAF made public commitments to stop hindering humanitarian access, there has been no follow-through or tangible improvements. The United States continues our efforts to seek a negotiated end to this conflict."