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UN warns of 'epic suffering' in Sudan and appeals for $4bn in aid

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There is "epic suffering" in Sudan says the UN, where fighting between rival military factions since April has created the world's biggest internal displacement crisis and raised fears of state failure.

On Wednesday, the UN appealed for $4.1bn (£3. 25bn) to meet humanitarian needs, amid warnings by the UN's World Food Programme that people are starving to death in areas cut off by fighting.

Médecins Sans Frontières says a child is dying of malnutrition every two hours in a single camp in the North Darfur region. The medical charity described the situation as "absolutely catastrophic".

The war between the Sudanese armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has devastated Sudan's economy. Half of the 50 million population needs food assistance and nearly 11 million people have been uprooted from their homes, including 1.7 million who have fled into the neighbouring countries of Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan. Most of these countries are already dealing with their own internal crises.

"They have lost so much," said Filippo Grandi, the UN's refugee commissioner, who recently visited Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia. "Time after time, we hear the same message from them: we want peace so we can go home, and we need support to rebuild our lives.

"I urge the international community to step up their support for the people of Sudan," Grandi added. "They desperately need help, and they need it now."

It is not known how many thousands have been killed during the 10 months of fighting. A leaked UN report says between 10,000 and 15,000 were killed in a single town in the country's West Darfur region, where RSF fighters and allied Arab militias stand accused of going door-to-door killing members of ethnic African groups. The violence has raised fears of a repeat of the 2003 genocide by the Janjaweed, the RSF's precursor.

The RSF appears to be gaining ground in the conflict, cementing its hold on Darfur and advancing into new areas of east and north Sudan. In December, it entered the state of Gezira, Sudan's breadbasket and a hub for aid agencies.

Efforts by regional powers, the US and Saudi Arabia to mediate a peaceful resolution have been unsuccessful.

Supporters of the Sudanese armed forces in Gadaref city in December last year. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The war has damaged Sudan's water supply and knocked out three-quarters of its health facilities, the UN said in its appeal. As a result, diseases including measles, malaria and cholera are surging, it said.

The UN's relief chief, Martin Griffiths, called on donors to provide funds to address the soaring humanitarian needs. "Ten months of conflict have robbed the people of Sudan of nearly everything - their safety, their homes and their livelihoods," he said. "The generosity of donors helps us provide food and nutrition, shelter, clean water, and education for children, and to fight the scourge of gender-based violence and care for the survivors."

Last year, the UN requested $2.5bn for Sudan; it received just 43% of that amount. The shortfall was part of a broad crisis in humanitarian funding that has seen operations paused and food rations slashed in several countries.

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