The head of UN humanitarian operations, Martin Griffiths, on Monday appealed to the warring parties in Sudan to guarantee safe and unhindered access for humanitarian workers to deliver life-saving assistance to civilians trapped in conflict zones.
Griffiths, who is Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, made the call during the inaugural meeting of the Sudan Humanitarian Forum, an initiative agreed upon by the Sudanese warring parties in Jeddah on November 7.
The forum is aimed at facilitating humanitarian aid delivery and addressing the dire humanitarian situation in Sudan, where millions of people are in need of assistance due to ongoing conflict and displacement.
In his address to the forum’s opening session, Griffiths underscored the critical need for improved access to affected civilians, emphasizing that the lack of access remains a significant obstacle to humanitarian operations.
“What we desperately need is safe and unhindered access so we can reach all people in need,” Griffiths stated.
He highlighted the urgent need for access to enable the containment of the ongoing cholera outbreak, which has spread to conflict hotspots in Khartoum and South Kordofan, emphasizing the risk of the outbreak spiralling out of control if left unchecked.
Beyond access, Griffiths urged the warring parties to take concrete steps to uphold their obligations and commitments to protect civilians from the ongoing fighting.
“We also call on all parties to respect international humanitarian law, including by protecting civilians and ensuring their access to humanitarian assistance,” he asserted.
Griffiths painted a grim picture of the humanitarian situation in Sudan, noting that 25 million Sudanese people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance. However, due to access constraints, humanitarian agencies have only been able to reach 4.1 million people.
“Access is a serious problem,” Griffiths reiterated.
The UN estimates that over 10,000 civilians have lost their lives in the conflict.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the facilitators of the Jeddah process, which seeks to end the war in Sudan. Also, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator Clementine Nkweta-Salami addressed the meeting but her statement was not released.