UN: International Donors Promise $1.5 Billion In Aid To Sudan

CAIRO (AP) -- International donors promised almost $1.5 billion in additional aid for conflict-stricken Sudan on Monday as the United Nations warned that the African country's humanitarian crisis is worsening.

Sudan has been rocked by fighting for more than two months as the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces battle for control of the country. Sudan's Health Ministry said Saturday that more than 3,000 have been killed in the conflict, which has decimated the country's fragile infrastructure and sparked ethnic violence in the western Darfur region.

The donations were pledged following a U.N.-sponsored meeting co-hosted by Egypt, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the African Union in the Swiss city of Geneva.

"The scale and speed of Sudan's descent into death and destruction is unprecedented," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said during the meeting's opening session.

Prior to the meeting, the U.N.'s emergency aid program for Sudan, launched after the fighting broke out April 15, had received less than 17% of the required $3 billion, Guterres said.

As the meeting progressed, numerous state representatives pledged contributions. Qatar's foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said the Gulf kingdom would be giving $50 million to the program.

Katja Keul, minister of state at Germany's Federal Foreign Office, said Berlin would pledge 200 million euros (nearly $219 million) of humanitarian assistance to Sudan and the region.

Speaking by a web link, the U.S. Agency for International Development's administrator, Samantha Power, said Washington would be donating an additional $171 million for Sudan.

The U.N.'s top humanitarian official, Martin Griffiths, said the United Nations would inject a further $22 million into the program.

It remained unclear if Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two of the conflict's key mediators, would provide further financial contributions to the humanitarian initiative.

The international aid group Mercy Corps expressed concern that the nearly $1.5 billion fell well short of the needed $3 billion.

"Despite some generous pledges and shows of solidarity made today, I am disheartened to see donors failing the people of the greater Horn of Africa yet again," said Sibongani Kayola, the group's director for Sudan,

Around 24.7 million people, more than half of Sudan's population, are in need of humanitarian assistance, the U.N. says. More than 2.2 million people have fled their homes to safer areas elsewhere in Sudan or crossed into neighboring countries, according to the latest U.N. figures.

On Sunday morning, the country's warring forces began a three-day cease-fire, brokered by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. It's the ninth truce since the conflict began, although most have foundered.

The conflict has turned the capital, Khartoum, and other urban areas into battlefields. The paramilitary force, commanded by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, has occupied people's houses and other civilian properties, according to residents and activists. The army, led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, has staged repeated airstrikes in densely populated civilian areas.

The province of West Darfur has experienced some of the worst violence. with tens of thousands of residents fleeing to neighboring Chad. The Rapid Support Forces and affiliated Arab militias have repeatedly attacked the province's capital, Genena, targeting the non-Arab Masalit community, rights groups say.

The province's former governor, Khamis Abdalla Abkar, a Masalit, was abducted and killed last week after he appeared in a televised interview and accused the Arab militias and the paramilitary force of attacking Genena. The U.N. and Sudan's military blamed the Rapid Support Forces for the killing. It has denied that.

Last week, Griffiths described the situation in West Darfur as a "humanitarian calamity."