The United Nations refugee agency said Friday that 200,000 people have fled the violence in Sudan, with 60,000 total having fled to neighboring Chad.
At a news briefing in Geneva, U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Olga Sarrado said 30,000 have crossed into Chad in the past several days, with more people crossing borders daily.
Along with those fleeing the country, she noted that 700,000 people are displaced within Sudan, as reported Tuesday by the International Organization for Migration, or IOM.
The news comes the day after Sudan's warring parties signed a commitment allowing humanitarian assistance into the country.
However, there was no letup in the fighting Friday as the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces both issued statements accusing each other of harming civilians and ignoring humanitarian needs.
Sudanese families fleeing the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region make their way through the desert after crossing the border between Sudan and Chad to seek refuge in Goungour, Chad, May 12, 2023.
And with no agreement on a cease-fire, airstrikes and artillery pounded Khartoum.
'We were expecting that the [humanitarian] agreement would calm down the war, but we woke up to artillery fire and airstrikes,' said Mohamed Abdallah, 39, living in Khartoum. Area residents also reported the sound of fighter jets overhead and heavy fighting in parts of Khartoum and its adjoining sister city of Bahri.
'I woke up to an airstrike (landing) nearby,' said Waleed Adam, a resident living in the east of the capital.
Since fighting began in mid-April, the capital has become an urban battlefield, and deadly ethnic clashes have erupted in the western Darfur region, where gunfire and artillery rattled neighborhoods in the city of Geneina on Friday. Since mid-April, fighting between local militias has killed 450 people in Darfur.
Addressing Friday's news briefing via video link, the U.N. Special Representative for Sudan Volker Perthes said he expected talks on a cease-fire to continue Friday or Saturday. He said the most important part of the agreement was that the two sides committed to continue the talks.
Perthes said both sides have ignored every cease-fire agreement signed during the four weeks since the conflict began because both believe they can win, and they are trying to improve their positions. But now, he said, neither believes that victory would be quick.
Fire destroys food for children
Also speaking at the news conference, U.N. Children's Fund Spokesman James Elder said a factory in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, which produces therapeutic food for children suffering from the most dangerous form of malnutrition, has been burned down.
He said the fire destroyed 14,500 cartons of ready-to-use therapeutic food - enough to provide life-saving treatment for the same number of children for six to eight weeks.
Elder called it, 'the darkest, most distinct illustration to date of how this conflict is threatening the lives of children through multiple means.'
A team from King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre load humanitarian aid inside a Saudi military C130 plane before it takes off from King Khalid airport to Port Sudan, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 10, 2023.
Humanitarian aid agreement
The agreement signed late Thursday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by representatives of Sudan's army and the rival Rapid Support Forces is intended to ensure the protection of civilians, including 'allowing safe passage for civilians to leave areas of active hostilities on a voluntary basis, in the direction they choose.'
The agreement requires both sides to permit humanitarian assistance, to allow the restoration of electricity, water and other basic services, to withdraw security forces from hospitals and to arrange for 'respectful burial' of the dead.
The Sudanese army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, is in a power struggle with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by General Mohamed Hamdam Dagalo.
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The two generals are former allies who together orchestrated an October 2021 military coup that derailed a transition to civilian rule following the 2019 ouster of former president Omar al-Bashir.
Tensions between the generals have been growing over disagreements about how the RSF should be integrated in the army and who should oversee that process. The restructuring of the military was part of an effort to restore the country to civilian rule and end the political crisis sparked by the 2021 military coup.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.