All three of Sudan’s main internet providers are offline as the United Nations appeals for aid funds.
All three of Sudan’s main internet operators were offline on Wednesday, internet observatory NetBlocks has said, cutting communications for millions of people stuck in conflict zones or fleeing for their safety.
The network blackout could also freeze e-wallets that many people depend upon amid a widespread cash shortage.
A source from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary has denied responsibility, the Reuters news agency reported, and the companies have not publicly blamed anyone for the outages.
Two of the networks had been offline since Friday, when telecom sources and the army-aligned state news agency said the RSF had shut down the networks belonging to MTN Sudan and Sudani. Zain Sudan is now also offline, NetBlocks said.
Aid agencies have warned of rising hunger in Sudan and famine-like conditions in some areas, as a result of the nine-month war between the Sudanese army and paramilitary RSF.
The United Nations on Wednesday urged countries not to forget the civilians caught up in the war, appealing for $4.1bn to meet their humanitarian needs and support those who have fled to neighbouring countries.
Half of Sudan’s population – around 25 million people – need humanitarian assistance and protection, while more than 1.5 million people have fled to the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan, according to the UN.
In the launch of its joint appeal with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called for $2.7bn in funding to provide humanitarian aid for 14.7 million people.
The UN refugee agency asked for $1.4bn to support nearly 2.7 million people in five countries neighbouring Sudan as part of the appeal.
OCHA’s appeal last year to provide aid to civilians in Sudan was less than half funded.
Later on Wednesday, the UN aid chief said that Sudan’s warring sides have agreed to meet in UN-mediated talks on enabling aid delivery.
Martin Griffiths told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland that he had been in contact with the heads of the two sides in the war about convening “empowered representatives of the two militaries” to discuss aid access.
He said he wanted “to get them to follow up the commitments of the so-called Jeddah Declaration”, which the two sides signed last May, agreeing to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure and to let in badly needed aid.
Griffiths warned the lack of access remained “very, very considerable”. While the Jeddah conference was organised by Saudi Arabia and the United States, Griffiths said “this time it’s the UN that will be the mediator”.
“I had positive responses from both sides,” he said, adding that he was “still waiting for a confirmation on when and where”, but that Switzerland had been suggested as a venue.
He said he hoped the meeting could take place “face to face”, but said plans were under way to organise a virtual call next week “as a first step”.
Griffiths said the international community needed to act with a heightened sense of urgency.
“We must not forget Sudan,” he said. “That’s the simple message that I have to say today.”