An attack on El Fasher would endanger hundreds of thousands of children, warns UNICEF

Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell on situation in Darfur, Sudan

03 May 2024

NEW YORK, 3 May 2024 – “The increase of fighting in Sudan’s North Darfur state has taken a deadly toll on children in recent weeks. But the threat of an imminent military attack on El Fasher, a city sheltering at least 500,000 people displaced by violence elsewhere in the country, risks a catastrophic escalation, endangering the lives and wellbeing of 750,000 children in El Fasher, and potentially millions more. We call on parties to the conflict to urgently step back from such a dangerous confrontation. 

“At least 43 people, including children and women, have been killed since the escalation of fighting in and around El Fasher a little over two weeks ago. Continued attacks, including the use of explosive weapons in residential neighbourhoods, are particularly dangerous for children, and will only result in more children displaced, injured, and killed.  

“Recent attacks on more than a dozen villages in western El-Fasher have resulted in horrific reports of violence, including sexual violence, children injured and killed, homes set on fire, and destruction of critical civilian supplies and infrastructure. Families, including those who had previously been displaced by the conflict, have once again been forced to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs. There are deeply concerning reports of children being separated from their families or reportedly going missing.  

“The fighting and growing fear of ethnically motivated violence has driven many families to overcrowded displacement camps such as Zamzam camp and informal gathering sites in and around El Fasher city. Many of the displacement sites lack adequate access to food, safe water and shelter, putting children at additional risk. 

“The encircling of El Fasher by armed groups and restrictions on movement on key roads out of the city are limiting families from leaving. At the same time, a severe lack of humanitarian access and an inability to deliver commercial goods due to the insecurity have led to scarcity of essential services and rocketing costs for water, food, and fuel. More than 330,000 people are reportedly facing acute food insecurity in El Fasher.

“All of these deeply worrying developments are happening at a time when the continuing brutal violence across Sudan is pushing the country toward a conflict-induced famine and a further catastrophic loss of life, especially among children. “Parties to the conflict must make every effort to de-escalate the situation, allow the safe movement of civilians, including the sick and wounded, who want to move to safer areas, and ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure. The parties to the conflict must also ensure rapid, sustained, and unimpeded humanitarian access – both across conflict lines within Sudan and across borders with neighbouring countries.

“Children in Sudan continue to suffer unconscionable violence, while their parents and grandparents still bear the scars of previous cycles of violence. We cannot allow it to continue to happen.” 

Notes to editors:   
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UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child and is committed to the children of Sudan. We never give up on finding solutions that provide immediate help to save the lives of children or provide durable support so that those children grow up with dignity, health and an education.  

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