More than 700,000 Sudanese Internally Displaced in Fighting, UN says

People who crossed from Sudan are seen at a refugee camp in Renk County, South Sudan, Wednesday, May 3, 2023. [AP]

The United Nations refugee agency says more than 700,000 Sudanese have fled their homes since violence broke out last month between two armed factions fighting for control of the northern African nation.

The updated figure, provided Tuesday by the U.N. International Organization for Migration, is more than double the 334,000 the agency reported to be internally displaced last week.

The IOM said an additional 100,000 Sudanese have fled the country.

The new figures were released a day after envoys from both warring factions met for a third day of talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The talks are aimed at allowing humanitarian aid to reach hundreds of thousands in need of food, shelter and medical care in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities after more than three weeks of fighting.

The Saudi kingdom has already pledged that it will provide Sudan with $100 million worth of aid.

Fighting between Sudan's military, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, erupted on April 15.

Repeated cease-fire agreements have failed to end the conflict or even do much to reduce the violence. Eyewitnesses in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, told VOA they heard renewed gunfire and an airstrike in the city Monday in and around the downtown area.

A Saudi official told Agence France-Presse Monday that the talks in Jeddah have yielded "no major progress" so far. The official said "a permanent cease-fire isn't on the table. Every side believes it is capable of winning the battle."

The Sudan Tribune reported Sunday that the army negotiators have made three demands, including unconditional withdrawal of the Rapid Support Forces from Khartoum, an extension of a humanitarian truce, and the integration of the RSF into the Sudanese army within two years.

The newspaper said, "It's not clear how the RSF negotiators will respond to these demands."

Sudanese citizens are watching the talks in Jeddah with a mix of hope and skepticism.

Sumeya Musa, who fled violence from Khartoum to Al Jazirah state, told VOA she hopes the talks produce a truce that will allow her to safely escape Sudan.

"Our hope from these talks is that the guns will be silenced, and we move out of this country. Practically, we are suffering. We just want to see airstrikes, bombing and guns to stop for a while," she said.

Workers unload aid from World Health Organization (WHO) and UAE-AID from United Arab Emirates at the Port Sudan International Airport, Port Sudan, Sudan, May 5, 2023.

Most aid operations have been suspended or severely scaled back due to the lack of security. Several aid workers have been killed in the fighting.

Looting also has hampered aid operations. The World Food Program said nearly 17,000 tons of food worth between $13 million and $14 million have been stolen from its warehouses across Sudan.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said recently it has launched an emergency appeal to support the Sudanese Red Crescent Society in its effort to deliver assistance to 200,000 people.