Sudan city El Fasher witness disease, death and despair

The RSF has besieged El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, for months, trapping around a million people, the last significant population in the region not under paramilitary control. At the Abu Shouk camp in North Darfur, approximately seven individuals per day are arriving with injuries sustained from nearby clashes involving fighters from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and factions allied with the Sudanese army. Initially, a fragile peace shielded the city during the siege, but violence escalated in April following the decision of two major armed groups, formerly instrumental in maintaining peace, to join forces with the army.

The conflict is particularly fierce near Abu Shouk, where army-aligned groups are engaging RSF fighters stationed to the north. Shelling has penetrated the camp, resulting in numerous casualties. However, the challenges extend beyond direct violence. Haroun Adam Haroun, the lone doctor at Abu Shouk, grapples with hundreds of deaths from malnutrition, miscarriages among women, a surge in malaria cases, and a mysterious respiratory ailment likely linked to shelling pollution. Haroun laments the lack of medical supplies and funding, compounded by the loss of livelihoods among camp residents and insufficient international assistance.

The conflict in Sudan erupted on April 15 last year, pitting the army against the RSF. Experts warn of the country’s potential disintegration, with Sudan facing an unparalleled humanitarian crisis, including famine threats and over 8.7 million displaced people—the highest globally. El Fasher, a humanitarian hub for Darfur, hosts a large internally displaced population, with grave concerns about potential RSF-led atrocities if they seize control. The fear of a large-scale massacre looms, prompting international appeals to prevent an RSF assault on El Fasher.

The RSF’s capture of Mellit in mid-April severed the last road into El Fasher not under army control, exacerbating the city’s isolation. Meanwhile, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continues its operations in Zamzam camp, providing medical care despite immense challenges. However, the situation remains dire, with MSF reporting alarming levels of malnutrition among children and pregnant women.

The MSF manager for North Darfur highlighted the dire circumstances, with a child dying every 24 hours due to acute malnutrition. Insecurity disrupts food supplies, aggravating the crisis. Amid escalating conflict, there are concerns that international aid delivery will become even more challenging.

Despite optimism from some local figures that El Fasher will withstand an RSF attack, clashes between the army and RSF intensify, causing significant casualties, including civilians. The prospect of an all-out battle threatens widespread civilian bloodshed and revenge attacks across Darfur.

Additionally, RSF fighters employ sniper fire, targeting army checkpoints and resulting in daily casualties.

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