Humanitarian organizations urge action against famine in Sudan

Aid organisations have urged international actors to take immediate action to prevent famine in Sudan.

Apr 10, 2024

An elderly man waits to refill his donkey-drawn water tank during a water crisis in Port Sudan in the Red Sea State of war-torn Sudan. (AFP or licensors)

By Lisa Zengarini
Humanitarian organisations working in Sudan and its neighbouring countries are sounding the alarm that Sudan is on the verge  of famine, urging all actors to immediately scale-up efforts  to avoid the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.  

The appeal comes ahead of a humanitarian conference to be hosted in Paris on 15 April by France, the European Union and Germany to help resolve what the UN considers to be “one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history, with potential to trigger the world's largest hunger emergency.”

A stark illustration of conflict-induced hunger
The food crisis is a direct consequence of the conflict that broke out on April 15 last year between the two rival generals, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan at the head of the Sudanese regular army (SAF), and Mohamed Dagalo "Hemedti" leading the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Despite General Dagalo announcing his commitment to a ceasefire early in January this year,  and a recent United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities, the fighting shows no sign of abating.

Sudan's worst hunger crisis
At a virtual media briefing hosted on Tuesday by the InterAgency Working Group for East and Central Africa (IAWG) and the Sudan INGO Forum, experts confirmed that the African nation is facing the worst hunger crisis it has ever experienced, and challenged the participants in the upcoming Paris Conference to come up with a concrete outcome before it is too late.

The year-long conflict between the SAF and the RSF has left more than 8,5 million people internally displaced people, 1,5 million displaced in neighbouring countries, and over half Sudan’s 25-million population unable to meet their basic food needs with famine already setting in.

Starvation as weapon
Fighting has disrupted harvests and whilst markets continue to function in many locations, peoples purchasing power has plummeted and families forced to leave their homes and without income can simply not afford spiralling food prices.

At the same time, access to humanitarian assistance continues to be severely limited by restrictions on civilian movement, lack of ports of entry in addition to insecurity.

With the conflict further extending, and as Sudan enters the lean season, said Anette Hoffmann,  Senior Research Fellow at the Conflict Research Unit of the Clingendael Institute,   the situation is expected to deteriorate even more dramatically than foreseen only a few weeks ago, if no immediate action is taken.  This, she said, should include providing seeds and fertilizers to farmers, as well food to the population.

She also remarked that both warring factions are using starvation as a weapon by systematically looting food supplies and harvest.

Children and women severely affected
Children and women are disproportionately and severely affected by the hunger and malnutrition emergency. Already nearly 4 million children under 5 years old are acutely malnourished. Women and girls are eating less and less nutritious foods than men and boys. Approximately 1.2 million pregnant and breastfeeding women face acute malnutrition. As the food security situation worsens women also face sexual violence, including rape, said Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary-General of CARE International.

With over 70% of health facilities shut down in conflict areas dropping child-vaccination coverage, limited access to services and looming disease outbreaks compound  the threats faced by these highly vulnerable groups.

Furthermore the conflict has serioulsu affected Sudan's education system: 19 ,illion Sudanese children are out of schhol said    Eatizaz Yousif, Sudan Country Director of the International Red Cross (IRC)

Challenges to regional security and economic stability
The crisis in Sudan also poses significant challenges to regional security and economic stability. More than 1.8 million people have fled Sudan since April 2023, with the majority seeking refuge in neighbouring countries – including Chad, South Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Central African Republic – placing an incredible strain on already fragile countries with humanitarian crises of their own.

On 15 February 2024, the Government of Chad declared a state of food and nutrition emergency, reflecting the urgency of the situation.  Almost 500,000 South Sudanese who had previously fled conflict and moved to Sudan have had no choice but to return, placing enormous strain on the pre-existing displacement crisis in South Sudan. What is at stake today is an entire region, from Red Sea to the Sahel.

No one should die of hunger due a lack of funding
In the face of the unprecedented scale of the crisis and in view of the Paris Conference they therefore insisted that the international community must intervene immediately: We can’t sit and watch as we see another crisis unfolds”, said Dominic MacSorley, Humanitarian Ambassador of the non-governmental organization CONCERN. “No one should die of hunger due a lack of funding and  UN members states, especially those in the Security Council and those who have the greatest influence in the region really need to use their power to press for the immediate cessation of hostilities and a peaceful negotiated solution to  the conflict”, he added.--Vatican News

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