Top Diplomats Meet in Paris to Mobilize Aid for Sudan, Wracked by War and On the Brink of Famine

PARIS (AP) -- A yearlong war in Sudan has devastated the country and pushed its people to the brink of famine. Top diplomats and aid groups are meeting Monday in Paris to drum up humanitarian support for the northeastern African nation to prevent further collapse and misery.

Sudan descended into conflict in April last year when simmering tensions between the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces exploded into open fighting in the capital, Khartoum and elsewhere across the country.

Members of Sudan's civil society and local NGOs will be involved in the Paris meeting, but neither the Sudanese army nor its rival the RSF will be represented.

The U.N. humanitarian campaign needs some $2.7 billion this year to get food, health care and other supplies to 24 million people in Sudan – nearly half its population of 51 million. So far, funders have given only $145 million, about 5%, according to the U.N's humanitarian office, known as OCHA.

French Foreign Minster Stephane Sejourne said the aim of Monday's conference is to mobilize humanitarian funding to help Sudanese people, who have been victims of both a "terrible war" and "international indifference."

"It's a colossal task," Sejourne said. "It's a war the Sudanese people did not want, a war that only produces chaos and suffering," he added.

The European Union's crisis management commissioner, Janez Lenarcic, said the 27-member bloc seeks to ensure that Sudan is not forgotten as wars in Gaza and Ukraine dominate the international news.

"People of Sudan, caught up in this emergency, are almost completely invisible," Lenarcic said. In a year-long war, Sudan has turned into one of the worst humanitarian disasters ever on the African continent, he said, and added: "It is our duty not to look away."

The United States and Saudi Arabia initially led efforts to find a negotiated way out of the conflict. But the efforts didn't succeed, and since October the fighting has been overshadowed by the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which is threatening to expand to a broader regional conflict.

Relief workers, meanwhile, warn that Sudan is hurtling towards an even larger-scale calamity of starvation, with potential mass death in the coming months. Food production and distribution networks have broken down and aid agencies are unable to reach the worst-stricken regions.

The conflict has also been marked by widespread reports of atrocities including killings, displacement and rape, particularly in the area of the capital and the western region of Darfur.

At least 37% of the population at crisis level or above suffer from hunger, according to OCHA. Save the Children warned that about 230,000 children, pregnant women and newborn mothers could die of malnutrition in the coming months.

"Famine is a reality in Sudan," said Abdallah al-Dardari, a regional director of the U.N. Development Program. He appealed to diplomats gathered in Paris to help facilitate access for humanitarian aid workers and funding for vital aid for millions of people trapped in conflict that is "rapidly deteriorating due to no respect for human rights and international law."

Nearly 9 million people have been forced to flee their homes either to safer areas inside Sudan or to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations.

The military, headed by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the RSF, commanded by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, have carved up Khartoum and trade indiscriminate fire at each other. In 2021, Burhan and Dagalo were uneasy allies who led a military coup. They toppled an internationally recognized civilian government that was supposed to steer Sudan's democratic transition.