UN says over 330,000 people internally displaced in Sudan

Evacuees carry their luggage as they cross into Egypt through the Argeen land port after being evacuated from Sudan to escape the conflict, on the international border lines between Egypt and Sudan. [VOA]

The United Nations migration agency says at least 334,000 people have been internally displaced in Sudan since deadly fighting broke out last month between two military factions.

The data was released Tuesday by the International Organization for Migration at a news conference in Geneva. At the same press briefing the U.N. refugee agency said that more than 100,000 people have fled from Sudan to neighboring countries.

The new figures come a day after the U.N. refugee agency made an ominous prediction that the fighting could force more than 800,000 people to flee the North African country.

Raouf Mazou, the deputy head of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Monday that the agency was planning for 815,000 people to flee Sudan into seven neighboring countries. He said that included 580,000 Sudanese along with foreign refugees now living in Sudan.

Mazou said around 73,000 people have already left Sudan.

UNHCR head Filippo Grandi said in a tweet Monday that the agency hopes its planning figures turn out to be too high, but said "If violence doesn't stop, we will see more people forced to flee Sudan seeking safety."

Fighting between Sudanese government forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continued Tuesday despite the extension of yet another cease-fire agreement. Sudan's health ministry says more than 500 people have reportedly been killed and more than 4,000 wounded since the fighting began on April 15 after relations between army chief Abdel Fattah al Burhan and RSF chief Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. The two generals were once allies in Sudan's transitional government after a 2021 coup.

The fighting has led to the seizure of a public health laboratory in the capital Khartoum by one of the warring factions. The lab holds samples of infectious diseases such as cholera and other hazardous materials. The World Health Organization said Tuesday the seizure posed a "moderate risk" of biological hazard after conducting risk assessment. The U.N. agency warned last week the seizure potentially posed a "high risk" of biological hazard.

A string of temporary truces has been widely ignored by both sides. The cease-fires were established by the two warring factions to allow people safe passage and to open a means for the country to receive humanitarian aid. However, while fighting has abated in some parts of the capital, heavy fighting has continued elsewhere. Each side has blamed the other for the infractions.

The top U.N. official in Sudan, Volker Perthes, told The Associated Press Monday that Sudan's warring generals have agreed to send representatives - potentially to Saudi Arabia - for negotiations.

The Sudanese ambassador to the United States, Mohamed Abdalla Idris, told VOA he hopes the cease-fire will eventually lead to meaningful long-term peace talks.

He said, "a cease-fire, truce, is a two-way traffic," and said peace can only be realized if all parties respect the terms of any deal.

The fighting has led the United Nations and other aid organizations to cut services to Sudan. However, the World Food Program said Monday that it was resuming operations to some areas of the country after a pause of more than two weeks prompted by the killing of three staff members.

The WFP said in a statement that distribution of food is expected to commence in the states of Gedaref, Gezira, Kassala and White Nile in the coming days to provide life-saving assistance.

The agency said, "We will take utmost care to ensure the safety of all our staff and partners as we rush to meet the growing needs of the most vulnerable."

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres dispatched U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths to Sudan to assess the situation there.

Writing on Twitter from Nairobi Monday, Griffiths described the situation in Sudan as "catastrophic."

He said the warring parties must, "protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. Ensure safe passage for civilians fleeing areas of hostilities. Respect humanitarian workers and assets. Facilitate relief operations. Respect medical personnel, transport, and facilities."

The fighting in Sudan has forced foreign governments to pull its citizens from the country.

Russia's military announced Tuesday that more than 200 people will be evacuated on four military transports.

Hundreds of Americans reached the eastern city of Port Sudan this weekend, watched over by U.S. military drones. Saudi officials said Monday that a U.S. Navy ship took more than 300 evacuees from Port Sudan to the Saudi port of Jeddah.

The U.S. State Department said Monday that three U.S. convoys evacuated over 700 people since Friday and said a total of over 1,000 U.S. citizens have been evacuated since the violence started in Sudan last month.

Britain's government announced Sunday that it was offering an additional evacuation flight for its nationals in war-torn Sudan.

A late Saturday flight out of Wadi Seidna Airport had been set to be the last flight out of the African country for British nationals. However, Britain's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office announced Sunday that another flight was leaving Monday from the airport in Port Sudan.