U.N. agencies warn that hunger in conflict-ridden Sudan has reached record levels, with more than 20.3 million people across the country, over 42% of the population, facing acute hunger, including 6.3 million who are “one step away from famine.”
According to the latest United Nations food assessment in Sudan, the number of people projected to be food insecure between July and September has nearly doubled from the last analysis, conducted in May 2022.
That makes “Sudan one of the most food insecure countries on the planet,” Adam Yao, deputy representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization to Sudan, said Friday.
Speaking to reporters from his post in Port Sudan, Yao cited Khartoum, South and West Kordofan, and parts of Darfur as the hardest-hit areas, “with more than half their populations facing acute hunger.”
He said, “Families are facing unimaginable suffering, and I have seen the impacts of this conflict with my very eyes. … I have met with many of the affected communities. They are destitute. They need help.”
But delivering lifesaving food aid to those in desperate need is extremely challenging because of the ongoing fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and paramilitary Rapid Response Forces.
In what is seen as a breakthrough, however, the World Food Program, or WFP, for the first time since the war started nearly four months ago, was able to deliver food aid to West Darfur state this week. A five-truck convoy transported 125 tons of food — enough to feed around 15,400 people for one month.
Eddie Rowe, the WFP’s country director for Sudan, said his agency hoped the truck route from eastern Chad to West Darfur would become a regular corridor to reach families who have little to eat.
“The situation in the Darfurs, and particularly in West and Central Darfur, is catastrophic,” Rowe said. “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 women and children who remained behind because “they were too scared to flee” are extremely vulnerable to the escalating violence as “their husbands have been killed, injured or have gone missing.”
“These families are barely surviving,” Rowe said. “Most are only eating just one meal a day, sharing whatever food they have with neighbors and selling whatever property they have simply to survive.”
People who do not get enough to eat pay a heavy price in rising malnutrition rates and hunger- and disease-related deaths. Earlier this week, the U.N. refugee agency said more than 300 deaths were reported in Sudan between mid-May and mid-July due to measles and malnutrition. Most of the deaths were children under 5.
Despite the many hardships and security risks, humanitarian agencies are doing their best to provide aid where needed. Since the rival generals went to war April 15, the WFP reports it has delivered emergency food and nutrition assistance to 1.6 million people across Sudan.
“The situation is volatile,” said Rowe, “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.”
Yao said the Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, was committed to delivering urgent livelihood assistance and was “supporting small farmers across the country, whose production was essential for feeding Sudanese people.”
He noted that the “FAO has nearly completed its ambitious goal of distributing emergency crop seed to an estimated 1 million farmers across 15 states.”
WFP and FAO are urgently calling on the warring parties to facilitate humanitarian access to the millions of people whose lives have been torn apart by the violence and are struggling to survive as food becomes ever scarcer.