Sudan: ‘Grim prediction’ now ‘harsh reality’ as hunger engulfs over 20 million
© WFP/Eloge Mbaihondoum. A Sudanese family take shelter at a refugee entry point near the Chadian border with Sudan.
United Nations, 11 August 2023
Dire predictions about escalating hunger in Sudan have tragically come true, as conflict-induced food scarcity has plunged 20.3 million people into severe acute hunger, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday.
Of that figure, 6.3 million people – 13 per cent of Sudan’s population – are experiencing emergency levels of hunger – classified as Phase 4 of the Integrated Food Security Classification – just one step from famine, with the conflict continuing to disrupt access to humanitarian aid and forcing millions to flee their homes.
“The operating environment in Sudan is without a doubt the most challenging that I have experienced in my career,” said Eddie Rowe, WFP Country Director for Sudan, recalling his more than 30 years with the UN agency.
“Since mid-April, the conflict has continued to spread, and its dynamics have become increasingly more complex. Gaining access to people in need of life-saving food assistance has also become more challenging and increasingly urgent.”
Bureaucratic barriers, looting of humanitarian facilities, and insecurity hamper aid delivery. At least 18 relief workers have been killed, with many others injured or detained. The situation is further compounded by funding shortages, fuel scarcity and inadequate infrastructure.
Breakthrough – first food aid delivery to West Darfur
Despite the immense difficulties, WFP had a major breakthrough last week, successfully delivering food assistance to West Darfur State, which has been heavily affected by the conflict.
A convoy of five trucks transporting 125 tons of food commodities travelled from eastern Chad to West Darfur, where WFP delivered one month’s worth of food assistance to around 15,400 people, Mr. Rowe said.
“It is our hope that this route from Chad will become a regular humanitarian corridor to reach these families in West Darfur, especially in Geneina – the capital of West Darfur – where lives have been torn apart by the violence,” he added.
OCHA. Sudan displacement map as of 1 August 2023. Map: OCHA, Data sources: IOM, UNHCR
Most vulnerable ‘barely surviving’
Mr. Rowe went on to note that the situation is “catastrophic” in West and Central Darfur.
“Our teams passed through towns and villages that are abandoned following a mass exodus of people. Health facilities, banks and other critical infrastructure are destroyed,” he said, adding that those who remain are mostly women and their children who are acutely vulnerable and have not fled because they are too scared.
Their husbands have been killed, injured, or have gone missing.
“These families are barely surviving. Most are only eating just one meal a day, sharing what food they have with neighbours and selling what they own simply to afford food,” the WFP official said.
Humanitarians doing ‘everything possible’
Since the outbreak of conflict between Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in April, WFP has delivered emergency food and nutrition assistance to 1.6 million people across Sudan, including those trapped in Khartoum State.
“The situation [in Khartoum] is volatile, and we have to seize often brief windows of calm to get our trucks into these areas and to safely deliver the food assistance into the hands of people who need it,” Mr. Rowe said.
The WFP official highlighted that UN and humanitarian workers “are doing everything possible” to deliver support in Darfur and across Sudan, and called on all parties to the conflict to facilitate humanitarian access and enable the safe delivery of assistance.