The UN warned Friday that large numbers of children were dying in the Sudan conflict, pointing to reports indicating that seven children were being killed or injured every hour.
“As feared and as warned, the situation in Sudan has become fatal for a frighteningly large number of children,” James Elder, spokesman for the UN children’s agency UNICEF, told reporters in Geneva.
He said the agency had received reports from a trusted partner — not yet independently verified by the UN — that 190 children were killed and 1,700 injured in just the first 11 days of the conflict that began on April 15.
Elder pointed out that those numbers had been gathered from health facilities in Khartoum and the Darfur region.
That means it only covers the children that actually made it to healthcare facilities in those areas, he said, warning that “the reality is likely to be much worse.”
Hundreds of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in Sudan since battles began three weeks ago between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan‘s forces and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo‘s Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
The sides have agreed to a string of short ceasefires, but none has been fully respected, and on Friday air strikes and gunfire continued to rock Khartoum for a 21st straight day.
The UN refugee agency also decried the dire situation in Sudan, urging all countries to refrain from returning Sudanese nationals to the country.
“UNHCR urges all countries to allow civilians fleeing Sudan non-discriminatory access to their territories,” Elizabeth Tan, the agency’s international protection chief, told reporters.
“This applies to Sudanese nationals, foreign nationals, including refugees who were being hosted by Sudan, stateless people, and those who are not in possession of passports or other identity documents,” she said.
UNHCR has said it is preparing for an outflow of 860,000 people from Sudan into neighboring countries, with more than 113,000 people having already fled the country.
Hundreds of thousands more have been displaced inside Sudan.
“We are grateful to all the neighboring countries who have allowed them to seek safety,” Tan said.
Pointing to the current volatility in Sudan, she said the agency called on countries to “suspend the issuance of negative decisions on asylum claims lodged by Sudanese nationals or stateless people who were habitually resident there.”
And she highlighted that previously delivered negative asylum decisions might need to be reconsidered.
“UNHCR is also calling on states to suspend forced returns to Sudan, including of people who have previously had their asylum claims rejected,” she said.