Thank you, Melissa.
I want to also thank Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the African Union, the European Union and UNHCR for partnering with our Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to host this extraordinarily important meeting, the importance of which is attested to by the interest and the level of attendance. I want to thank everyone here in this room for their attendance.
As [Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs] Rosemary [DiCarlo] has said, what we are already and clearly witnessing in Sudan is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. If urgent international action is not taken, the crisis threatens to deteriorate into a catastrophe that could engulf, will engulf, the entire country and then the region.
If you want to know the cost of inaction, you need look no further than the price the Sudanese people have already paid in just five months:
At least 5,000 people killed – we’re clear that that is an underestimation – more than 12,000 injured, and with the true toll likely to go much higher.
An increasingly ethnic-based nature to the violence, particularly in Darfur, again as Rosemary instanced, where there are chilling reports of at least 13 mass graves in places such as El Geneina.
One of the world’s fastest-growing displacement crises, as we will hear from [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] Filippo [Grandi], more than 5 million people forced to flee their homes, including over 4 million within Sudan and more than a million, I think, into neighbouring countries, and keep counting.
A complete breakdown of the health system, with almost 80 per cent of health services not functioning.
Increasingly severe hunger crisis, with more than 6 million people now facing emergency levels of acute food insecurity.
And one thousand – perhaps this is the worst of all these chilling statistics – 1,200 children dying from malnutrition and preventable diseases, such as measles and others.
And we heard in the Security Council last week, horrific and pervasive levels of sexual violence against women and girls.
In response to these spiraling needs, the humanitarian community is doing everything it can to re-establish and bring the response up to scale and speed.
Since the conflict began, we have reached 3.5 million people. But this amounts to only 19 per cent of the 18 million people we are targeting for humanitarian assistance and protection.
Our ability to operate is hampered by the highly dangerous and complex operating environment – perhaps the most so in the world today – as well as access restrictions and bureaucratic impediments.
We were able to restore access from Port Sudan to Darfur through intensive negotiations – and I thank those involved in providing those approvals – in early August, complemented by cross-border delivery of assistance from Chad, and I thank the Chadian authorities who are here at present.
I am grateful both to the Sudanese and the Chadian authorities for their facilitation of those activities. On average, however – and let’s be realistic – it takes between two and six weeks to move supplies from Port Sudan to Darfur – a distance of just under 2,500 kilometers – and the time taken is due to the intensive negotiations that need to take place to ensure a certain level of safety and security.
We are trying to get assistance to the capital Khartoum, where there are enormous needs, access even more constrained there. Only three convoys made it through since late June. Securing agreement to crossline access to Khartoum is our most critical priority, and I give great thanks and testimony to agencies like [the International Committee of the Red Cross] ICRC and others who are there and who always have been.
And I want generally to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the heroic efforts of the Sudanese civil society and local humanitarian workers, including in our own organizations, and including the Emergency Response Rooms in Khartoum, which swiftly pivoted towards helping deliver humanitarian assistance and protection.
The people of Sudan, as we have heard and will hear more, have paid a brutally heavy price for this five-month conflict. To prevent further loss of life and suffering, we can take action, and we can reduce the awful human damage.
We need urgent international action to bring this war to an end, as Rosemary has outlined. I am among those deeply concerned by signs that the conflict is intensifying and expanding into more areas in Sudan and threatening more countries in the neighbourhood. Allowing this situation to descend into a fullblown civil war would be a human tragedy, especially because it must be and can be prevented.
A concerted international effort is also required to get life-saving assistance, the business we’re in, which is a critical lifeline to the people of Sudan. It is needed now, it was needed yesterday, and it will be needed tomorrow.
We must have unhindered access to people in need. We must have improvements in provision of visas, movement certificates, and we must have sufficient financial resources. On the issue of access, humanitarian access, I am once again, as so often, calling on all parties to the conflict to recommit to regular senior-level dialogue to enable us to reach people in dire need, and I hope that this will indeed, we will see a return to Jeddah in the coming days and weeks.
On funding, I am grateful for what we have received, of course. But we certainly need more, and I hope this meeting will be an occasion on which we may hear pledges for more assistance. At the moment, in the operation inside Sudan – Filippo will talk about outside Sudan – we have received just over 30 per cent of the funding needed for this year, and we’re already in the last quarter of the year.
This meeting is about not forgetting the people of Sudan. Today is a reminder to act and to let the people there know that we have not forgotten them, they have not been forgotten. To take the urgent actions, which we know what they are, and we know what we need.
And let us resolve to say, “not this time,” “not under our watch,” to the worst, most complex, most cruel humanitarian catastrophe we see in the world today. Thank you very much.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.