Global Agriculture

Sudan is Facing an Unprecedented Hunger Catastrophe, Say UN Agency Chiefs

28 June 2024, Rome: Alarming new food security projections for Sudan published today show that Sudan is facing a devastating hunger catastrophe on a scale not seen since the Darfur crisis in the early 2000s, warn the heads of three United Nations agencies.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) have been warning of rapid deterioration in conditions for the people of Sudan, particularly children, as food security is torn apart by war that has ravaged the country for more than a year. Collectively the agencies have mobilised a large-scale humanitarian response inside Sudan and in neighbouring countries where more than 2 million refugees have sought safety.

An immediate ceasefire and renewed international efforts – both diplomatic and financial – as well as unhindered and sustained humanitarian access, are urgently needed to enable the humanitarian response to be further expanded and to allow the agencies to deliver at the speed needed.

The rapid deterioration in food security in Sudan has left 755,000 people in catastrophic conditions (IPC Phase 5) with a risk of famine in 14 areas, according to the latest Snapshot data released by the Integrated Phase Classification. The worst conditions are in the areas hardest hit by fighting and where people displaced by the conflict have gathered. A total of 25.6 million people are in the high levels of acute hunger (IPC Phase 3+). This means that for half of Sudan’s war-battered population, every single day is a struggle to feed themselves and their families.

This is the first time that catastrophic (IPC Phase 5) conditions have ever been confirmed in Sudan since the IPC’s inception in 2004. Unlike the Darfur crisis of twenty years ago, the present crisis spans the whole country, with catastrophic levels of hunger even reaching the capital Khartoum and Gezira State, once Sudan’s breadbasket.

This new data shows also a stark deterioration for Sudan’s population from the last projection, released in December 2023, that showed 17.7 million people facing acute hunger (IPC Phase 3+). This included nearly 5 million people in emergency levels of hunger (IPC Phase 4). Today, 8.5 million people are projected to be in emergency levels of hunger (IPC Phase 4).

“The new IPC analysis revealed a deepening and rapid deterioration of the food security situation in Sudan with millions of people’s lives at risk,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “We are now delivering life-saving seeds for the main planting season. The clock is ticking for Sudan’s farmers. FAO urgently requires $60 million to meet unfunded parts of its Famine Prevention Plan to ensure that people – especially those in inaccessible areas – are able to produce food locally and avert food shortages in the next six months. We must act collectively, at scale, with unimpeded access, for the sake of millions of innocent lives hanging in the balance”.

“WFP’s team in Sudan is working day and night in perilous conditions to deliver lifesaving assistance, yet these numbers confirm that time is fast running out to prevent famine. For each person we have reached this year, another eight desperately need help,” said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain. “We urgently need a massive expansion of humanitarian access and funding so we can scale-up our relief operations, and halt Sudan’s slide into a humanitarian catastrophe that is threatening to destabilize the wider region.”

“The latest snapshot illustrates the devastating impact the conflict in Sudan is having on the country’s children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Hunger and malnutrition are spreading at alarming rates, and without concerted international action and funding, there is a very real danger the situation will spiral out of all control. There is no time to lose. Any delay in unfettered access to vulnerable populations will be measured in the loss of children’s lives.”

FAO, UNICEF and WFP are leading multi-sectoral famine prevention efforts reaching people across Sudan

WFP has reached over 3 million displaced and vulnerable people in Sudan so far this year and is ramping up assistance to reach an additional 5 million people by year end. WFP is urgently working to expand access and open new humanitarian corridors – from neighbouring countries and across frontlines. WFP has this year delivered food and nutrition supplies for around half a million people in the Darfur region via convoys crossing from Chad – and more convoys carrying food and nutrition supplies for around 250,000 people are planned in the coming weeks. WFP is also pre-positioning assistance at key crossings and supply routes as the rainy season starts when many roads in Darfur and other regions across the Sudan become impassable.

After reaching 3.8 million people in the first half of the year through winter seed distributions and vaccination, FAO is now preparing to support more than 1.8 million farming and pastoral households in Sudan, equivalent to 9 million people, to resume livelihood activities and produce food locally. FAO has purchased almost 8,000 tons of cereal seeds (sorghum and millet) and will reach over 870,000 farming households across Sudan, including in Darfur and Kordofan, where food insecurity has reached catastrophic levels. FAO’s experience shows that even in conflict settings, when farmers can access land and inputs, they will produce food.

Since the conflict started in April 2023, UNICEF has reached close to 5.5 million children with nutritional screening and more than 322,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition with lifesaving treatment. UNICEF is scaling up multi-sectoral response alongside humanitarian partners to prevent more child deaths, reaching over 5 million people with access to safe water, and vaccinating over half a million children against measles in the first five months of this year. UNICEF is also getting children back into learning, providing cash to over 350,000 pregnant and lactating women and their families, and making all efforts to protect children from violence, separation, and trauma.

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