WFP pleads for aid access in Sudan, amid reports of starvation
© UNOCHA/Mohamed Khalil | Displaced women and children at an Internally Displaced People’s area in West Darfur due to the fighting in Sudan.
United Nations, 2 February 2024
The number of hungry people in Sudan has doubled over the past year, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday, adding that it is already receiving reports of people dying from starvation.
WFP described the situation as dire, noting that almost 18 million people across the country are currently facing acute hunger.
An estimated five million are experiencing emergency levels of hunger due to conflict in areas such as Khartoum, Darfur, and Kordofan.
Obstacles to aid delivery
“The situation in Sudan today is nothing short of catastrophic,” said Eddie Rowe, WFP Sudan Representative and Country Director.
“WFP has food in Sudan, but lack of humanitarian access and other unnecessary hurdles are slowing operations and preventing us from getting vital aid to the people who most urgently need our support.”
The Sudanese Army and a rival military known as the Rapid Security Forces (RSF) have been locked in battle since last April. WFP is urging them to provide immediate security guarantees so that it can reach millions in need.
The UN agency has repeatedly warned of a looming hunger catastrophe in Sudan, where it has assisted more than 6.5 million people since war broke out.
“Yet life-saving assistance is not reaching those who need it the most, and we are already receiving reports of people dying of starvation,” Mr. Rowe said.
WFP is only able to regularly deliver food aid to one in 10 people facing emergency levels of hunger in conflict hotspots, including Khartoum, Darfur, Kordofan, and most recently Gezira.
To reach these areas, humanitarian convoys must be allowed to cross frontlines which is “becoming nearly impossible” due to security threats, enforced roadblocks and demands for fees and taxation, the agency said.
‘Look beyond the battlefield’
WFP is trying to obtain security guarantees to resume operations in Gezira state, a vital humanitarian hub that supported more than 800,000 people a month.
Fighting in December forced half a million people to flee, many of whom were previously displaced. However, only 40,000 people so far have received aid because 70 WFP trucks were stuck in the coastal city of Port Sudan for more than two weeks.
Another 31 trucks that would have delivered aid to the Kordofans, Kosti and Wad Madani, have not been able to leave El Obeid for over three months.
“Both parties to this gruesome conflict must look beyond the battlefield and allow aid organisations operate,” said Mr. Rowe.
“For that, we need the uninhibited freedom of movement, including across conflict lines, to help people who so desperately need it right now, regardless of where they are.”
Humanitarians response plans
The UN continues to call for an end to the war in Sudan, which has killed more than 13,000 people. Nearly eight million have been displaced, including more than 1.5 million who have fled across the border.
UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, announced on Friday that it will launch two response plans next week to respond to the needs in Sudan and to support displaced Sudanese in neighbouring countries.
Overall, 25 million people urgently need assistance, OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva.
UN refugee chief in Sudan
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has been drawing attention to the situation of people affected by the war during a visit to the region this week.
Filippo Grandi arrived in Sudan on Thursday to “highlight the plight of Sudanese civilians (millions of whom are displaced), and of the refugees they still host, all caught in a brutal, worsening war which most of the world seems to ignore.”
Writing on the social media platform X, Mr. Grandi reflected on his conversations with displaced people in Port Sudan.
“They told me how war suddenly disrupted their peaceful lives. And how they’re losing hope — for them and for their children. Only a ceasefire and meaningful peace talks can put an end to this tragedy,” he said.
Support Sudanese refugees
His visit to Sudan followed a three-day mission to Ethiopia, where he called for urgent and additional support for Sudanese refugees, more than 100,000 of whom fled to the country since war broke out in April.
Ethiopia is one of six countries neighbouring Sudan that continue to receive thousands fleeing the fighting.
Mr. Grandi heads the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, which is supporting the Ethiopian Government, as well as regional and local authorities, to provide protection and life-saving services to the new arrivals.
The original article appeared here.