Home Mark Warner As Violence Persists, Senators Warner, Kaine, Colleagues Call for Increased Humanitarian Access...

As Violence Persists, Senators Warner, Kaine, Colleagues Call for Increased Humanitarian Access and Assistance for Sudan

"Senators highlight dire humanitarian situation as the conflict surges on for a third week"

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From Senator Mark Warner’s office:

AS VIOLENCE PERSISTS, WARNER, KAINE, COLLEAGUES CALL FOR INCREASED HUMANITARIAN ACCESS AND ASSISTANCE FOR SUDAN

~ Senators highlight dire humanitarian situation as the conflict surges on for a third week ~ 

WASHINGTON – As violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continues for a third week, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), joined by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), have formally requested that the Biden administration offer all available support for humanitarian efforts in the region. The worsening conditions in Sudan have resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and have forced hundreds of thousands to flee in search of safety.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power, the senators highlighted the continued and indiscriminate violence, which has significantly worsened the humanitarian situation, and disrupted aid operations on the ground. According to the United Nations, even prior to the recent outbreak in violence nearly 16 million people in Sudan were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance.

“As the violence has escalated, its impact has been far reaching across all sectors of society. Damage to critical civilian infrastructure, including transportation and communication infrastructure, has limited the ability of people and basic goods to move throughout the country; damage to hospitals, depleted resources, and broken medical supply chains have largely degraded the nation’s health care capacity; and continued conflict has left significant portions of the population sheltering in their homes, with dwindling or exhausted supplies of food, water, and medicine,” the senators wrote. “As the UN’s top humanitarian affairs official said this week, ‘the humanitarian situation is reaching [a] breaking point.’ Unfortunately, this conflict has also deteriorated the flow and delivery of humanitarian assistance into Sudan, and aid groups’ ability to operate on the ground.”

Noting the indiscriminate violence and reported gross violations of international humanitarian law, the senators echoed calls for the parties to the conflict to ensure safe access and movement for humanitarian workers and medical personnel. They requested that the U.S. designate a senior diplomat or envoy to ensure that securing these humanitarian assurances remains a priority in direct negotiations, and that we engage with neighboring countries to help address the cross-border challenges seen from mass movement out of Sudan. Additionally, they voiced support for USAID and State Department efforts to support aid organizations in returning to Sudan quickly and safely, leverage local humanitarian organizations as part of the ongoing response to the violence, and engage with international partners as part of the U.S. response strategy.

The senators continued, “[A]s aid organizations work to reestablish operations, it is vital that the U.S. State Department and USAID provide all available support to facilitate ongoing aid operations on the ground, and support a resumption of efforts – whether in Sudan or in neighboring countries – that have been suspended due to the violence. In response to the significant need, and in part to fill in as international organizations have been forced to suspend their operations, a range of local and national Sudanese organizations have stepped forward to provide capacity. We encourage you to use flexibility in supporting these local efforts, in order to best leverage them alongside international efforts.”

Sens. Warner and Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), have been vocal about their support for aid efforts in Sudan and for the Sudanese diaspora in the United States, which in 2021 totaled more than 54,000 immigrants from Sudan, with the highest concentration located in Fairfax County, VA. Earlier this week, the senators called on the Biden administration to issue a new Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Sudan, which would provide relief from deportation and access to a work permit for foreign nationals from the country currently in the United States.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Secretary Blinken and Administrator Power,

We write with deep concern regarding the horrific violence in Sudan, and its impact on the rapidly declining humanitarian situation on the ground. Now in its third week, the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has left hundreds dead, thousands more injured, and has forced hundreds of thousands of individuals to flee to neighboring regions and countries.

As the violence has severely disrupted humanitarian assistance on the ground – including by forcing some organizations to withdraw or suspend their efforts – we urge that you offer all available support to resume aid operations, take steps to reposition aid resources to reflect the current security environment, leverage local organizations as part of an ongoing response strategy, and continue efforts to marshal an international response.

Direct negotiations facilitated by the United States are critical to the reestablishment of a robust international aid response, and we urge that assurances for immediate and safe aid operations be made a primary focus of those negotiations.

We are deeply grateful for the U.S. Government’s efforts in evacuating U.S. Embassy personnel, and American citizens from Sudan. However, the recent conflict has hit areas like Khartoum and Darfur particularly hard, and it tragically exacerbates the existing crisis and humanitarian need across the country. According to the United Nations (UN), even prior to the recent outbreak in violence nearly 16 million people were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance – a figure that represents close to a third of the total population in Sudan. Even prior to the start of the conflict, the crisis was already acute – more than 4 million children and pregnant and lactating women are counted as being “severely malnourished.”

As the violence has escalated, its impact has been far reaching across all sectors of society. Damage to critical civilian infrastructure, including transportation and communication infrastructure, has limited the ability of people and basic goods to move throughout the country; damage to hospitals, depleted resources, and broken medical supply chains have largely degraded the nation’s health care capacity; and continued conflict has left significant portions of the population sheltering in their homes, with dwindling or exhausted supplies of food, water, and medicine. As the UN’s top humanitarian affairs official said this week, “the humanitarian situation is reaching [a] breaking point.”

Unfortunately, this conflict has also deteriorated the flow and delivery of humanitarian assistance into Sudan, and aid groups’ ability to operate on the ground. The men and women who work for the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as those employed by international relief organizations, have committed themselves to careers seeking to alleviate suffering around the world, oftentimes carrying out this mission in harm’s way. Tragically, in the first two weeks of fighting at least five international aid workers had been killed, and there have been broader threats targeting aid personnel and supplies.

To be clear, the blame for the disruptions to aid and casualties lie with the warring parties. Reported gross violations of international humanitarian law have greatly impacted the safety of aid personnel, and directly contribute to the suffering of the Sudanese people. We echo international calls for the parties to the conflict to ensure safe access and movement for humanitarian workers and medical personnel, and to allow for steady streams of aid into and throughout the country.

In response to the dire humanitarian need, the reestablishment of these aid flows is critical. We understand that organizations are looking at how to best reposition and recalibrate support in light of the serious security risks. We appreciate the direct efforts that the U.S. Government has initiated to support humanitarian assistance, including USAID’s activation of a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) on April 23, and we urge you to take steps to safely reposition and pre-position resources so that they can best be utilized on the ground as soon as possible.

Additionally, as aid organizations work to reestablish operations, it is vital that the U.S. State Department and USAID provide all available support to facilitate ongoing aid operations on the ground, and support a resumption of efforts – whether in Sudan or in neighboring countries – that have been suspended due to the violence. In response to the significant need, and in part to fill in as international organizations have been forced to suspend their operations, a range of local and national Sudanese organizations have stepped forward to provide capacity. We encourage you to use flexibility in supporting these local efforts, in order to best leverage them alongside international efforts.

In an alarming estimate earlier this week, the UN projected that the ongoing conflict may drive more than 860,000 individuals to flee from Sudan into neighboring countries. We have already seen significant levels of migration out of Sudan over the past three weeks, which at many points has overwhelmed border capacity, thereby creating additional humanitarian concerns at these crossings. We welcome U.S. efforts to engage these neighboring countries and the UN to increase border capacity, ensure UN and international non-governmental organizations (INGO) access to these border crossings, provide additional aid along these routes, and scale up planning efforts to account for significant anticipated volume.

It is critical that negotiations involving a ceasefire between the warring parties prioritize the immediate creation of safe and durable humanitarian access to those in need. Additionally, we urge the deployment of an appointed special envoy or other senior diplomat to the region to engage directly with neighboring countries to ensure the free movement of individuals seeking safety out of Sudan, and that UN and INGOs are able to provide needed assistance in these border efforts.

It is vital that the U.S. continue its diplomatic engagement to push for a durable cessation of violence, in partnership with the African Union, and other regional and international partners. This cessation ultimately is the only path towards ensuring that urgent humanitarian needs on the ground are met. It must, however, also be accompanied by a concerted international effort, which fully resources the work done by aid organizations.

We have listened to concerns about what this ongoing violence means for individuals’ loved ones in Sudan, and for the country’s future. We support and encourage all efforts by the U.S. Government to be a forward-leaning and strong partner in the international aid response to this crisis in Sudan. Finally, we request regular updates and briefings from the State Department and USAID on the delivery of humanitarian aid for civilians in Sudan, and from the State Department on the evacuation of American citizens. 

Sincerely,

 

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