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One year after civil war erupted in Sudan, millions of people are in dire need of aid

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East has overshadowed what many call the forgotten war in Sudan. Exactly one year ago, a quiet morning in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, was shattered as tensions between Sudan's army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces exploded into all-out war.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOMBS EXPLODING)

KELLY: Well, now, a year later, the conflict has spread across the country. NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu has been following the story for us from the beginning. Hey there, Emmanuel.

EMMANUEL AKINWOTU, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise. Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Talk to me about what kind of toll this has taken on the country. What kind of shape is Sudan in today?

AKINWOTU: Well, it's been a year of war, and Sudan has more or less collapsed. It's on the verge of famine. It has the world's worst displacement crisis. There's now over 8.5 million people displaced inside the country or who fled and likely tens of thousands of people who've died, so many people who've been killed without proper burials. You know, in some areas, there are reports of a pileup of corpses and horrific death tolls reported in Darfur especially. That's the region in the west of Sudan where there's been a resurgence of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

KELLY: Yeah.

AKINWOTU: We visited Chad last year and saw thousands of people pouring into the country every day and trekking through the desert, the blazing heat to escape these attacks by the RSF and allied militias. I spoke recently to Nisrin Elamin. She's assistant professor at the University of Toronto, and she fled Sudan in the weeks after the war started. And like many people in the diaspora, she's been trying to support her family members who've been left behind.

NISRIN ELAMIN: It's been pretty heartbreaking watching from afar and having a lot of my family members not able to leave. The health care system has pretty much collapsed. I think over 70% of hospitals are no longer operating.

KELLY: It is indeed heartbreaking listening to that, Emmanuel. I do wonder, with the world's attention focused on two other wars in Gaza and, of course, Ukraine, is this conflict in Sudan getting anywhere near the attention it would otherwise?

AKINWOTU: Yeah. Many people would say it's not getting anywhere near enough, you know, either in terms of the diplomatic urgency to end the war or humanitarian aid getting inside Sudan. You know, the UNHCR humanitarian agency said that about $2.7 billion is needed this year for food, health care and other aid supplies to about half of Sudan's population. And so far, funders have got about 5% of that amount. You know, the U.S. yesterday committed an extra hundred million dollars in aid funding. And it's important to remember that just a few years ago, Sudan was a country full of promise with major challenges, of course. But there was a civilian-led government installed after the revolution in 2019 that toppled Omar al-Bashir. He was the autocrat who ruled Sudan for decades. And then the army and the RSF launched a coup against that government, and now they're fighting for control of the country.

KELLY: Well, and is there any end in sight to the fighting, any sign of a possible resolution?

AKINWOTU: Well, not at this point. You know, there are going to be more talks in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. But that's just the latest round after several failed talks last year. And it's not clear how these talks will be any different. So far, neither side has shown any genuine interest in the settlement, at least until they gain a definitive advantage on the battlefield. But that hasn't happened. And they both claim that this war is in the name of the Sudanese people. But it's clear that this was never what the Sudanese people wanted.

KELLY: NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu reporting from Lagos. Thank you.

AKINWOTU: Thanks, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Emmanuel Akinwotu
Emmanuel Akinwotu is an international correspondent for NPR. He joined NPR in 2022 from The Guardian, where he was West Africa correspondent.