18 Million Sudanese Facing Acute Hunger as Civil War Shows No Signs of Ending 
People seeking shelter at an refugee entry point located 5 km from Chad’s border with Sudan

Nearly 18 million people face acute hunger in Sudan – 37% of the population – the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned Monday. Five million people are experiencing emergency levels of hunger, including 700,000 children

The World Health Organization (WHO) also called attention to the rise in infectious diseases as a result of the conflict, in another statement from early February. Cholera remains an ongoing threat, WHO also said, noting that 10,500 cholera cases and 300 deaths were recorded as of 31 January 2024. 

However, the conflict’s disruptions in healthcare indicates that the actual number of cases and deaths may be much higher, since surveillance accuracy is affected by access limitations, WHO noted.

“The consequences of the past 300 days means that more than 700,000 children are likely to suffer from the deadliest form of malnutrition this year,” said UNICEF spokesperson James Elder at a recent press conference in Geneva. “This is a war destroying families’ ability to feed and protect themselves, and that is killing people.”

The country’s humanitarian situation is “teetering on the brink of catastrophe” as conflict that erupted in April 2023 triggered the world’s largest displacement crisis

In the 10 months since, more than six million people have been forcibly displaced internally, and 1.7 million more people have fled to neighboring countries. The influx has exacerbated the already severe humanitarian challenges facing the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

Since April, 516,000 people have crossed from Sudan into South Sudan, a country that is itself wracked by political instability and food insecurity. Another 634,000 people reside in impermanent shelters along Chad’s border. Additional displacement of Sudanese to these neighboring countries could be “catastrophic,” noted the United Nations Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The World Food Programme has repeatedly warned of looming famine in Sudan, calling attention to the rapid increase in the number of those experiencing hunger, and the lack of international attention to the humanitarian crisis. 

Prolonged conflict and fading international attention

Dispersion of Sudanese refugees around Africa

Sudan “hugely lost media attention,” despite the conflict’s increasing effect on the stability of the entire region, Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in a press briefing earlier this month. 

Even more worrisome, however, is the lack of political diplomacy or momentum towards a ceasefire and eventual peace agreement.

Since violence broke out on 15 April 2023 between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), peace talks have repeatedly fallen through. Foreign actors, notably the Russian-based Wagner Group have armed the RSF, reflecting their deep geopolitical interests in the conflict. “And the theme of reaching for the gun first, war as the first instrument of choice to resolve differences – nowhere is this more clear than Sudan,” remarked Griffiths. 

Despite attempts to end the conflict through talks in Jeddah, Addis Ababa, and Djibouti and repeated calls for peace by the UN, the humanitarian crisis continues unabated. 

“Peace in Sudan seems to be so elusive, so far away from the reality of people who have been displaced, who are lacking the slightest of resources, but who still are brave enough to consider themselves Sudanese people, patriots of that country,” Griffiths said.

Sudan food insecurity
Children remain especially vulnerable to food insecurity in the prolonged conflict

UN agencies request $4.1 billion for aid

Earlier this month the UN organizations charged with coordinating humanitarian relief for Sudan and refugees in neighboring countries issued urgent calls for additional funding. OCHA requires $2.7 billion to aid 14.7 million people in Sudan. The new 2024 response plan aims to restore basic services hindered since the outbreak of the conflict. 

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, responsible for coordinating the Regional Refugee Response Plan, requests $1.4 billion to address aid for the nearly 2.7 million people in Sudan’s neighboring countries. 

Combined, the two plans seek to support 17.4 million people in Sudan and the surrounding region.

Griffiths emphasized the continued need in Sudan. “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. But last year’s appeal was less than half funded. This year, we must do better and with a heightened sense of urgency.”

Image Credits: World Food Programme, UNHCR, WFP/Ala Kheir.

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