Army ban on cross-border aid endangers lives in Darfur, activists say

Wednesday February 28 2024

A Sudanese refugee who is seeking refuge in Chad waits with other refugees to receive a food portion from World Food Programme (WFP), near the border between Sudan and Chad in Koufroun, Chad on May 9, 2023. PHOTO | REUTERS


Millions of people in Sudan's Darfur region are at risk of dying of hunger after a decision by the Sudanese government to prohibit aid deliveries through Chad, an advocacy group for internally displaced people said on Tuesday.

The order, a digital copy of which Reuters has obtained, effectively shuts down a crucial route for supplies to the vast Darfur region, controlled by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the army's rivals in a 10-month civil war.

"The failure to receive urgent humanitarian aid puts millions of displaced people in Darfur at risk of death from hunger, which makes denying food and relief to the displaced a war crime," the General Coordination for Displaced People and Refugees said in a statement.

Read: Sudan refugees stranded without healthcare in Chad

"Food should not be used as a weapon against innocent citizens," it added.

The group also accused the RSF of looting humanitarian assistance and hindering deliveries, as has the United States. The RSF has denied the accusation, while saying any rogue actors will be brought to justice.


On Tuesday, medical aid group MSF said unidentified armed men had raided its base in Zalingei, the capital of central Darfur which is controlled by the RSF.

The war in Sudan erupted last April over disputes about the powers of the army and the RSF under an internationally backed plan for a political transition towards civilian rule and elections.

The fighting has wrecked parts of Sudan including the capital Khartoum, killed more than 13,000 people according to UN estimates, drawn warnings of famine, and created an internal displacement crisis involving more than eight million.

Supply of weapons

In the order seen by Reuters, the army-linked Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited a change in policy "due to the negative developments from the Chadian side that proved to facilitate military support to the RSF rebel militia".

Read: Sudan war raises fear of cross-border weapons smuggling

UN experts say Chad has been used as a route to supply crucial weapons from the United Arab Emirates to the RSF.

However, given the many dangers and roadblocks along routes from Port Sudan in the east, aid agencies say the route via Chad is vital, particularly as some displacement camps in Darfur have not received aid since the start of the war.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry said it was committed to facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid. The army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The World Food Program (WFP) said earlier this month that while five million Sudanese suffer emergency levels of hunger - the step before famine - and 18 million face acute hunger, it was only able to reach one in 10 people in the areas of the country most affected by the conflict, which include Darfur.