The longer fighting goes on in Sudan, the greater the humanitarian catastrophe
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Another cease-fire in Sudan is off to a rocky start in the capital.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
The Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces agreed to a mediated seven-day cease-fire starting today, but the fighting is still going on. And that's been the pattern. Other attempts at cease-fires have provided brief lulls in the fighting, but all of them eventually fell apart. And the longer the fighting goes on, the greater the humanitarian catastrophe. Although some aid has reached the country, the worst affected areas - like the capital, Khartoum, or the remote region of Darfur in west Sudan - are struggling to get relief.
MARTÍNEZ: Emmanuel Akinwotu is in the region in the neighboring country of Chad. Emmanuel, the United Nations is trying to negotiate safe passage for aid with the two opposing sides. So how critical is the situation in Sudan right now?
EMMANUEL AKINWOTU, BYLINE: Good morning. It's very critical. You know, more than a hundred thousand people have fled, and there are expected to be far more. In the last few days, I've been speaking to doctors, and they've been describing how the health system is collapsing under this conflict. You know, most hospitals in Khartoum have shut. Some have been attacked or are even occupied by fighters. Thousands are injured but can't get treatment. And, you know, they're struggling for the most basic supplies, like blood bags.
I spoke to doctors who said they didn't have anesthetic. So when they were forced to operate on patients who were shot or wounded, they were dying from shock and trauma. And the U.N., at the moment, are urgently trying to get assurances from both sides, the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, that this latest cease-fire will hold, at least enough to create safe routes so that help can reach where it's most needed. But that hasn't been the case so far.
MARTÍNEZ: You mentioned how you're in Chad. The - it shares a border with the Darfur region in western Sudan. That's a region that's seen a lot of the worst violence in the past couple of weeks. What's happening there?
AKINWOTU: Yes, of course. You know, Khartoum has clearly been the epicenter of this horrible fighting. But across Darfur, in Sudan, the fighting has been incredibly intense and sadly with less visibility than in other areas like Khartoum. You know, this region has seen immense suffering. There was a horrific war in Darfur about 20 years ago, and now there's this conflict that has been devastating there. I spoke to Mohamed Gibreel Adam, who is MSF coordinator in the city of El Fasher in Darfur, and he said that there was actually only one functioning hospital in a city of nearly a million people and that they were on their own.
MOHAMED GIBREEL ADAM: There is no water, and there is also no electricity and also no market. And all the humanitarian actors, especially the international community, have left, evacuated the town. So they felt like there is a fear, lack of protection, like hopeless, the feeling that they were left alone in this kind of dire and very critical situation.
AKINWOTU: And this is why there are about 30,000 people so far who've fled to Chad, and that number could grow to over a hundred thousand. And even before this conflict started, there were about half a million refugees - Sudanese refugees - in Chad. And so that's really heaping immense strain on an already tense humanitarian situation here.
MARTÍNEZ: And how are neighboring countries, such as Chad, feeling the impact of this conflict?
AKINWOTU: Well, you know, Chad is one of seven countries which borders Sudan. And sadly, many of these countries are unstable, like Chad - you know, shaken by conflicts, there are armed groups, coups. For the moment, the real strain is humanitarian because of so many refugees already crossing these borders. But, you know, Chad is really sensitive to this conflict also because of ethnic groups which share these borders and militias. So, you know, this is a really tense situation.
MARTÍNEZ: That's Emmanuel Akinwotu. Emmanuel, thanks a lot.
AKINWOTU: Thank you.
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