Sudan’s displaced millions struggle to survive as economy seizes up

Sudan’s displaced millions struggle to survive as economy seizes up
People wait to get food distributed by volunteers in Omdurman, Sudan, September 3, 2023. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 26 September 2023
Follow

Sudan’s displaced millions struggle to survive as economy seizes up

Sudan’s displaced millions struggle to survive as economy seizes up
  • More than 5.25 million of Sudan’s 49 million people have been uprooted since the fighting erupted

PORT SUDAN: About two months after heavy clashes around his home in Sudan’s capital drove Sherif Abdelmoneim to flee, soaring rent and food costs forced the 36-year-old and his family of six to return to a city where fighting still rages.

Most of those who fled Khartoum after war between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces broke out in mid-April have not returned. They face malnutrition, floods and scorpions as they depend for survival on handouts and meager aid relief, the generosity of host communities stretched increasingly thin.

More than 5.25 million of Sudan’s 49 million people have been uprooted since the fighting erupted, according to UN figures. Over 1 million of those have crossed into neighboring countries, but more than 4.1 million have stayed in Sudan, where they have come under increasing financial pressure.

“The states (outside Khartoum) are safe but the prices are expensive and rents are high, and we cannot continue with that,” Abdelmoneim said by phone from Omdurman, a city adjoining Khartoum where he has rented a house in an area where he can still hear artillery fire but is no longer in the midst of clashes.

The conflict has brought Sudan’s stagnant economy to its knees, blocking much trade and transport, hampering farming, halting many salary payments, and causing vast damage to infrastructure.

The country now has to draw on what meager resources are left to support an internally displaced population which, when those made homeless by previous conflict are included, reaches nearly 7.1 million, more than any other in the world.

Aid workers expect that more of those who had paid rent or lodged for free when they fled the capital will end up in collective shelters as their funds dry up.

“We are hospitable but people are handling more than they can,” said Omar Othman, a government official in Kassala, where he said rents had risen sharply. “If the war continues, these people came with small savings so they will need shelter.”

Host communities in areas little affected by fighting have been reeling from the knock-on effects of the war.

In Rabak, about 275km (170 miles) south of Khartoum, many young people had been trying to make a living in factories or as day laborers in the capital before the war broke out.

“For the locals the labor market is paralyzed. Khartoum is the engine for the rest of the country,” said resident Fadeel Omer.

Displaced people in the city unable to afford rent were lodged in shelters with crumbling walls and scorpions, and several malnourished children had been dying daily in the city hospital, he said. Large groups had headed back to Khartoum.

In Merowe, 340km north of Khartoum, salaried workers and farmers have seen their income dry up, and local volunteers are struggling to provide basic meals to the displaced, some of whom were sleeping on sofas or tables, said lawyer and local volunteer Izdihar Jumaa.

Damage to infrastructure in the three regions worst affected by the war – Khartoum, Darfur and Kordofan – could be $60 billion, or 10 percent of its total value, said Ibrahim Al-Badawi, Sudan’s former finance minister and an economics researcher. He estimated that the gross domestic product could plunge 20 percent this year.

“If the war stops, Sudan would need emergency economic support of $5-10 billion to revive the economy,” he told Reuters in an interview in Dubai.

“The continuation of the war will lead to the destruction of the Sudanese economy and the state.”

Since the start of the war, prices for many products soared. The currency has fallen as low as 900 Sudanese pounds to the dollar on the black market in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, a hub for government officials and aid workers, from about 560 pounds in April.

A continuing lifeline for many is remittances sent by Sudanese living abroad, said Omar Khalil, who fled to Port Sudan from Omdurman in June with his wife and three children.

“They are the ones bearing this burden on their shoulders,” he said. “This cannot last forever.” Khalil and his wife, both former art teachers, now make ice cream at home to sell to supermarkets.

International aid efforts for Sudan are severely underfunded, with less than 25 percent of the $2.6 billion required for this year received by mid-August, according to the United Nations. Aid workers say relief operations have also been hindered by government red tape and the breakdown of services and logistics based in the capital.

Authorities are nervous about relief operations by local volunteers and want the displaced to be housed in camps, but there are no funds to run them on the scale that would be needed, said Will Carter of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Across Sudan, some displaced people who had been renting were being evicted, though most were still lodging with extended families or strangers, he said. “We’re going to have an impasse – people squatting will be destitute within these cities,” he added.


UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity

UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity
Updated 3 sec ago
Follow

UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity

UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity
  • “I think all steps toward unity are to be welcomed and encouraged,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said
  • Israel swiftly slammed the Beijing-brokered deal, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz insisting that “Hamas rule will be crushed“

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed Tuesday an accord brokered by China seeking reconciliation between Hamas and other Palestinian factions to form a national unity government in Gaza.
“I think all steps toward unity are to be welcomed and encouraged,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding that Guterres “very much welcomes the signing of the Beijing Declaration by the Palestinian factions.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Hamas announced it had signed the agreement in Beijing with other Palestinian organizations — including rivals Fatah — to work together for “national unity.”
Hamas and Fatah are long-term rivals and fought a brief but bloody war in 2007 in which the former seized control of Gaza.
Fatah continues to dominate the Palestinian Authority, which has limited administrative control over urban areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israel swiftly slammed the Beijing-brokered deal, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz insisting that “Hamas rule will be crushed” and accusing Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, a leader of Fatah, of embracing the group whose October 7 attacks triggered the war in Gaza.
The text of the deal outlines plans for “a temporary national unity government by agreement of the Palestinian factions” which would “exercise its authority and powers over all Palestinian territories” — the Gaza Strip as well the West Bank, including Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the factions had agreed to set up an “interim national reconciliation government” to govern post-war Gaza.
Speaking at the UN, spokesperson Dujarric said unity among the Palestinian factions was crucial.
“Palestinian unity... is crucial for peace and security and for advancing the aspirations of the Palestinian people for self determination and for fully independent, democratic, contiguous, viable and sovereign Palestinian state,” he said.


Hezbollah in revenge mission following fatal drone attack

Hezbollah in revenge mission following fatal drone attack
Updated 59 min 41 sec ago
Follow

Hezbollah in revenge mission following fatal drone attack

Hezbollah in revenge mission following fatal drone attack
  • Member of group killed on the outskirts of Shaqra by Israeli strike
  • Hezbollah retaliated with a drone attack on an Israeli army base on Mount Neria

BEIRUT: A Lebanese man was killed and another injured on Tuesday while in a pickup truck used for selling candy and snacks in the southern villages of Lebanon.

The fatality occurred when an Israeli military drone targeted the vehicle on the outskirts of Shaqra. The victim was identified as Sadek Atawi, a member of the Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Israeli strikes also targeted the outskirts of Naqoura, Markab, Hula, Talusah, and Aita Al-Shaab with shells and incendiary bombs.

Against the backdrop of the attack, alarm sirens sounded in several towns in Upper Galilee, with reports of rockets falling in that area and the region of Western Galilee.

Israeli media outlets reported that “most of the alarm sirens sounded in settlements where residents were not evacuated.”

Sirens were heard in the areas of Jabal Al-Jarmaq, Meron, Netua, Basuta, Shomera, Even Menachem, Kiryat Shmona, and Beit Hillel, along with neighboring towns.

A spokesperson for the Israeli military said that “several drones originating from Lebanon detonated in the vicinity of Mount Meron, while rockets were detected in the areas of Kiryat Shmona and Margaliot.”

Hezbollah said in a statement that it had conducted “an aerial attack using a squadron of drones on the Mount Neria base, in retaliation for the assassination carried out by the enemy in the town of Shaqra.”

Israeli fighter jets once again flew at low altitude over Beirut and its surrounding areas, including Khaldeh, Hadath, Aramoun, Damour, Jiyeh, and Iqlim Al-Kharroub, and traveled all the way to Keserwan and the Jezzine District, causing loud sonic booms as they broke the sound barrier.

Hezbollah targeted on Monday night, for the first time, the Tsurial settlement in Western Galilee with dozens of Katyusha rockets. The group said that the strike was in retaliation for “the attack that targeted civilians in the town of Hanin,” resulting in injuries.

Two Israelis were injured by missiles during the attack on the Tsurial settlement, according to reports in Israel.

Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee, in a post on X, said: “The locations targeted by the Israeli army included a Hezbollah weapons depot and infrastructure in Aita Al-Shaab.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Minister of Education Yoav Kisch said on Tuesday that “the next school year will not start in the north due to security complications in this region.”

According to Israeli media, Kisch has urged the prime minister and heads of the security apparatus to “act now and with force against the state of Lebanon. Deciding to carry out war with utmost force against Lebanon is inevitable to restore calm and stability for the residents of the north, and (for) the future of the state of Israel.”

On the subject of the future of the conflict, Israel’s Alma Research and Education Center, which specializes in military affairs, has published a report warning of “the ability of Hezbollah’s Radwan force to invade the Galilee.”

It added: “Despite months of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, this force can execute plans to take over lands in Israel, just like Hamas did.

“The Radwan force can operate independently, without constant instructions or external logistical assistance.

“Division commanders are significantly independent when making quick tactical decisions on the ground, while the force is equipped with all the infantry and commando weapons currently available on the arms market.”


Houthis and Yemeni government agree to end economic hostilities, expand Yemenia flights

Houthis and Yemeni government agree to end economic hostilities, expand Yemenia flights
Updated 23 July 2024
Follow

Houthis and Yemeni government agree to end economic hostilities, expand Yemenia flights

Houthis and Yemeni government agree to end economic hostilities, expand Yemenia flights
  • UN’s special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, welcomes deal and acknowledges ‘significant role’ of Saudi Arabia in achieving it
  • Following the surprise announcement, Grundberg said the UN was ready to work with all parties to implement the agreed measures

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s internationally recognized government have reached an agreement with the Houthis, facilitated by Saudi Arabia, to lift economic sanctions and increase the number of Yemenia Airways flights from Houthi-held Sanaa.
Hans Grundberg, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, said both parties agreed to ease economic hostilities by canceling their most recent actions taken against banks in areas the other controls and pledged to halt all such measures in the future.
They agreed to increase the frequency of national carrier Yemenia’s flights from Sanaa to Jordan from one to three a day and to introduce daily flights from the capital to Cairo and India. In addition, the two sides will hold discussions about administrative, technological and budgetary issues related to the airline.
They will also hold talks on the humanitarian and economic challenges under an UN-proposed peace plan known as “the road map.”
Following the surprise announcement, Grundberg said the UN was ready to work with all parties to implement the agreed measures. He also “recognized the significant role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in bringing this agreement about.”
The economic dispute between the government and the Houthis escalated in recent weeks when the government’s Central Bank sanctioned six banks in Houthi-held Sanaa and withdrew their licenses after they refused to relocate their headquarters from Sanaa to government stronghold Aden. The Central Bank had also withdrawn banknotes printed before 2016, which were in extensive use in Houthi-controlled areas, and shut down currency-exchange companies.
The economic sanctions were introduced after the Houthis this year, for the first time since the start of the civil war a decade ago, minted a new currency. The Yemeni government viewed this as an effort by the militia to establish an autonomous economy. The government also ordered Yemenia and telecoms companies to relocate their headquarters to Aden.
In an attempt to put pressure on the government to end its severe economic sanctions, the Houthis seized control of four Yemenia aircraft last month, announced that they would run the airline from Sanaa and threatened to fully restart the war. The militia previously attacked oil terminals in the government-controlled provinces of Shabwa and Hadramout, halting oil exports and preventing the circulation of banknotes printed by the Central Bank. They also banned traders in areas under their control from importing goods through the government and blocked the import of gas from the central city of Marib.
The Yemeni government said it eased its economic sanctions and reached an agreement with the Houthis to avoid exacerbating the economic crisis in militia-controlled areas, in response to requests from the business community and to comply with UN, regional and international mediation efforts.
“The government reiterates its steadfast determination not to subject Yemeni citizens in regions violently controlled by Houthi militia to additional living costs as a consequence of the militants’ unilateral actions, and to allow them to travel,” the official SABA news agency reported.
However critics of the deal, such as Kamel Al-Khoudani from the political bureau of the Yemeni National Resistance, said the government had conceded to Houthi demands for additional flights and an end to punitive measures against banks in Sanaa even though the militia had failed to meet counter-demands, including the resumption of oil exports.
Supporters, such as Yemeni journalist Sami Al-Kaf, argued that the government had successfully coerced the Houthis, who have previously rejected all demands to participate in negotiations, into agreeing to economic talks.


UN investigators decry patterns of grave violations in Sudan

UN investigators decry patterns of grave violations in Sudan
Updated 23 July 2024
Follow

UN investigators decry patterns of grave violations in Sudan

UN investigators decry patterns of grave violations in Sudan
  • The people they spoke to had detailed firsthand accounts of “horrific acts of killings, sexual violence, including gang rape,” the team said
  • The investigators said that many of the violations appeared to be particularly targeted against professionals

GENEVA: A team of UN investigators said Tuesday they had met in Chad with victims of violence in Sudan’s brutal civil war and had documented “disturbing patterns” of grave abuses.
The recently established UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the situation in Sudan said it had spent three weeks in Chad meeting with survivors of the conflict in Sudan, members of Sudanese civil society and other observers.
The people they spoke to had detailed firsthand accounts of “horrific acts of killings, sexual violence, including gang rape,” the team said in a statement.
“These brutal acts must stop and the perpetrators must be brought to justice,” mission member Mona Rishmawi said.
The fact-finding mission, which was created by the UN Human Rights Council late last year to investigate alleged abuses in the conflict, also described “arbitrary detention, torture (and) enforced disappearances.”
It had also heard of “looting, the burning of houses, and the use of child soldiers,” it said.
The investigators said that many of the violations appeared to be particularly targeted against professionals like lawyers, rights defenders, teachers and doctors.
“Forced displacement was a common feature.”
War has raged in the northeast African country for more than a year between the regular military under army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
Both sides have been accused of war crimes including deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and blocking humanitarian aid, as famine threatens.
The war, which began in April 2023, has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and uprooted more than 10 million people inside the country while two million more have fled across borders, according to the UN.
More than 600,000 of those have made their way to Chad.
The independent experts, who do not speak on behalf of the United Nations, called on the international community to urgently step up efforts to end the conflict.
“This crisis requires the support of the international community as a whole,” said mission chair Mohamed Chande Othman.


Egypt’s El-Sisi checks on Trump after assassination attempt

Egypt’s El-Sisi checks on Trump after assassination attempt
Updated 23 July 2024
Follow

Egypt’s El-Sisi checks on Trump after assassination attempt

Egypt’s El-Sisi checks on Trump after assassination attempt

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi spoke on the phone with former US President Donald Trump to check on his health after an assassination attempt, the Egyptian presidency said.
Trump had expressed strong support to El-Sisi during his term in face of protests against him in 2019, calling El-Sisi a great leader.