The war that erupted without warning turned previously peaceful Sudanese homes into cemeteries, the UN refugee agency said amid concerns that the fighting is growing in scope and brutality, affecting the people of Sudan, and the world is scandalously silent.
Parties to the conflict are also violating international humanitarian law with impunity.
“It is shameful that the atrocities committed 20 years ago in Darfur can be happening again today with such little attention. As a result, almost six million people have been forced from their homes; more than a million have fled to neighbouring and often fragile countries – and some of them have already moved on,” UNHCR said in a statement.
Within Sudan, the agency further noted, 4.5 million people have been internally displaced since April, when the war began, while 1.2 million have fled to neighbouring countries like Chad, Egypt, South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic.
The overwhelming majority of the refugees displaced from war are women and children.
Recent fighting in the Darfur region has caused even more displacement with thousands of people struggling to find shelter and many sleeping under trees by the roadside, UNHCR said.
“We are very concerned about them not having access to food, shelter, clean drinking water or other basic essentials,” it stressed.
Last week, the UNHCR Director for External Relations, Dominique Hyde visited Sudan’s White Nile State, where over 433,000 internally displaced persons are estimated to be living.
Before the conflict in Sudan erupted in mid-April, the country’s White Nile State was already hosting nearly 300,000 mostly South Sudanese refugees in 10 refugee camps.
School children have equally been affected with the education of millions now at risk.
“More than 1,200 children under 5 have died in White Nile State between mid-May and mid-September alone, due to a measles outbreak combined with high levels of malnutrition. At least four children are still dying every week in White Nile State, as essential medicines, personnel, and supplies are lacking,” noted UNHCR.
The exodus of Sudanese refugees to neighbouring countries, meanwhile, is increasing dramatically. In Chad, new arrivals are reportedly coming at a rate of some 700 per day.
In recent days, Renk on the border between Sudan and South Sudan has seen a sharp increase in refugee arrivals with over 20,000 people said to have crossed last week.
Meanwhile the widespread cases of rape and sexual violence prompted UN calls for an immediate end to all gender-based violence, including sexual violence as a tactic of war.
“There must be accountability for these crimes, as well as medical and psychosocial support for survivors,” it stressed, adding “The parties must put in place mechanisms to prevent recurrence of such violence”.
The UN refugee agency says it requires $2.6 billion to reach 18 million people in Sudan.