Sudan Conflict Leaves 25.6 Million People in Acute Food Insecurity

Women carrying grain in Sudan

Fourteen months into its devastating civil war, one-half of Sudan’s 25.6 million population faces levels of food security ranked as “crisis,” emergency, or “catastrophic,” according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis

The IPC analysis of Gaza also found that a “high and sustained risk” of famine persists across the entire occupied territory as conflict between Israel and Hamas rages on – although increased food aid deliveries since have so far averted earlier predictions of widespread famine, made in March. Even so, some 96% of the population of 2.15 million people face emergency levels of food insecurity, the latest IPC report stated. Nearly 343,000 Gazans, or 15% of the population are currently experiencing “catastrophic” levels of food insecurity (IPC 5), according to the IPC assessment. 

Sudan’s food insecurity, meanwhile, has reached the worst recorded levels the country has ever seen. The humanitarian emergency has left 755,000 people at catastrophic levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 5) in 10 states, with the widening spectre of famine. At current levels over 1,000 people per day are at risk of death, the report stated.

Map of Sudan food insecurity
The IPC’s latest projections show intense levels of food insecurity concentrated in the western portion of the country.

Some 8.5 million Sudanese – 18% of the population – are likely to experience catastrophic emergency-level levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 4) within the coming months, warned  the IPC, which ranks food insecurity and hunger on a 1-5 scale.

The latest survey, conducted between late April and early June, marks a dire and rapid deterioration in the food security situation since IPC’s December 2023 report. Nearly 8 million more Sudanese have faced  high levels of acute food insecurity, ranked as IPC 3 or greater – an increase from 17.7 million to 25.6 million in just six months. 

Violence disrupts aid, fuels famine

Grain shipment in Sudan
The prolonged conflict in Sudan is hindering key humanitarian aid, inlcuding the World Food Programme’s work.

Intense fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary rebel group, Rapid Support Forces (RSF), has led to the most brutal civil war seen in decades, with snowballing effects on health, hunger and displacement. 

Since violence erupted on 15 April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF, the country has experienced the highest levels of food insecurity in its history. 

Armed fighting between the two factions that began in Khartoum quickly spread from the capital region to engulf Greater Darfur, Greater Kordofan, Khartoum and Al Jazirah states in the western regions of the country near the border with Chad. These regions are also now the epicentre of the hunger crisis. 

“There is a risk of Famine in 14 areas – affecting residents, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees – in Greater Darfur, Greater Kordofan, Al Jazirah states and some hotspots in Khartoum if the conflict escalates further, including through increased mobilization of local militias,” warned the June IPC report. 

Systematic obstruction of aid

Despite the tremendous needs, the warring parties have  systematically obstructed aid workers and deliberately denied access, said the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) on Sudan in a statement last month

“Movements across conflict lines to parts of Khartoum, Darfur, Aj Jazirah and Kordofan have been all but cut off since mid-December. The closure of the Adre border crossing in February – our main route into western Sudan from Chad – means that limited assistance is trickling into Darfur. Aid workers are being killed, injured and harassed, and humanitarian supplies are being looted,” the IASC said.

Earlier this year, nearly 860,000 people were denied humanitarian aid in Kordofan, Darfur and Khartoum states. The Committee warns that these represent “deliberate hindrances to humanitarian assistance that leave the civilian population without the essentials to survive [and] violate international humanitarian law.”

“This is the worst hunger crisis that has ever been recorded in Sudan. The biggest challenge aid agencies are facing is humanitarian access. We need unhindered access to reach the people most in need with life-saving assistance. Any further delays can be catastrophic and will result in deaths. It is evident the most vulnerable children and their families are bearing the brunt of the conflict,” said John Makoni, Interim National Director for World Vision Sudan.

OCHA: Gaza aid deliveries still being hindered  

Food insecurity Gaza
The entire Gaza Strip faces ICP Phase 4 Emergency food insecurity. A child receives nutritional supplements from the WFP.

While increased food deliveries to Gaza have led to “a marked improvement in the food consumption outcome indicators” in all areas of Gaza, according to the IPC, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that access constraints continue to hamper aid operations, including efforts to scale up nutrition support. 

Some 8,000 children under five years old have been diagnosed and treated for acute malnutrition in Gaza since the war began, according to the World Health Organization.

But limited access in the north is preventing the establishment of new nutrition services there, OCHA noted. Escalations in fighting in southern and central Gaza, following Israel’s invasion of the Rafah border area, have severely limited the World Food Programme’s (WFP) ability to deliver food supplies. 

“Due to insecurity and lack of access, only two stabilization centers for severely malnourished patients can operate,” said WHO’s Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a June X post.

IPC mapping of Gaza hunger risks present and future.

Despite these challenges, WFP reached more than 766,000 people in Gaza with food in June, “though these rations have been reduced due to limited aid and dwindling food stocks,” said the WFP in a statement, noting that it had provided some 9.4 million hot meals through a network of more than 90 community kitchens. 

Sanitation and hygiene challenges

Gazans struggle to obtain basic supplies of food and water amidst mounting piles of garbage and debris

WHO and other agencies also warned of the severe hygiene and sanitation situation brought about by the conflict, the closure of borders and the demise of services for waste and sanitation. 

“Further concentration of displaced populations into areas with significantly reduced water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH), health and other essential infrastructure increases the risk of disease outbreaks, which would have catastrophic effects on the nutritional and health status of the population,” warned WHO in a statement June 25, as fighting across the enclave continued to displace civilian populations over and again.

People in Gaza are living surrounded by piles of waste and sewage, said the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in a post on X

Efforts to collect and transfer solid waste to temporary sites continued this month, but at a lower rate due to the lack of fuel. Fuel shortages could also hinder ongoing maintenance work on the electricity feeder line for the Southern Gaza Seawater Desalination Plant.  And due to a lack of cooking fuel, Gazans are burning toxic plastic waste and other trash, UNRWA stated. 

Pleas for more aid

More than two months have passed since the International Humanitarian Conference for Sudan met in Paris, the IASC has received just 16% of the $2.7 billion needed to avert the looming famine. The limited support from donors follows a worrying lack of international attention towards the conflict.

The IASC writes that “donors must urgently disburse pledges made in Paris and fast-track additional funding for the humanitarian appeal. With a famine on the horizon, we must deliver much more life-saving aid now, including seeds for farmers before the planting season ends.”

In Gaza, the OCHA has issued a flash appeal, calling for $2.82 billion for UN agencies and NGO partners to address the needs of the more than three million people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The WHO adds that given the unpredictability of the ongoing conflict “and humanitarian access challenges, any significant change may lead to a very rapid deterioration into Famine.”

Image Credits: WFP/Abubakar Garelnabei, IPC , WFP/Ali Jadallah​​​​, IPC , UNRWA .

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