LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Britain’s leading Catholic aid agency is making an emergency appeal to support families in Sudan.

Over 8.5 million Sudanese have been forced to flee their homes in Sudan since the war between rival militaries erupted in April 2023, according to the United Nations.

The civil war started in April 2023, involving fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group.

Sudan is now in the grip of the world’s worst hunger and displacement crisis.  The UN says deliberate obstruction and targeting of aid convoys is preventing life-saving supplies from reaching those most in need.

Civilians are being murdered, women and girls are being raped, and villages are being looted and burned to the ground.

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CAFOD is the official international aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and is on the ground in Sudan, and says there is a short window to act before the growing season in Sudan starts in June, as fears grow of an impending – yet preventable – famine.

Jo Kitterick, CAFOD’s director of participation, said many aid agencies exited Sudan when the current fighting erupted a year ago.

“Right now, Catholic agencies in the Caritas network that CAFOD is part of, supported by the Church of Sudan, are some of the only organizations able to deliver aid to support the Sudanese people,” she said.

“The communities we serve in Sudan have issued a desperate cry for help and we are inviting the Catholic community to stand alongside us and the local Sudanese organizations we fund in responding to their call,” Kitterick said.

For the past week, the RSF and aligned nomadic (referred to as “Arab”) militias have clashed with the Sudanese army and allied sedentary (referred to as “non-Arab”) tribal armed movements in North Darfur.

Tensions in the country got worse after the Joint Force of Armed Struggle Movements – a coalition of non-Arab armed groups – dropped their neutrality on April 12 to support the army. In response, the RSF side burned down several non-Arab villages in the east of North Darfur.

Speaking April 19, UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward to the United Nations, said “it is not too late for Sudan to return from the brink.”

“The United Kingdom is also concerned by the growing tensions in El-Fasher.  The humanitarian consequences of full-scale conflict in and around the city would be catastrophic,” Woodward said.

“We call on the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces and also armed movements present in the city to take measures to de-escalate and we underline all parties’ obligations under international humanitarian law, including to protect civilians,” she said.

Woodward told the UN the warring parties in Sudan should return to negotiations, to agree a durable ceasefire, and support a political process designed to restore civilian rule.

She said “external actors” providing material support to either warring faction are prolonging the bloodshed.

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“Those who have influence with the warring parties need to use this constructively, to bring them to the negotiating table,” the British ambassador said.

She said the United Kingdom will double its humanitarian aid to almost $110 million in the next year, “but without sustained humanitarian access, it will not reach those most in need, nor help to avert famine.”

“This anniversary is an unacceptable milestone in an unjustifiable conflict.  We once again call on the warring parties to end the fighting now, to remove barriers to humanitarian delivery, and to engage in a political process,” she said.

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