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Conflict driving hunger crisis in Sudan, UN officials tell Security Council

“As we approach the one-year anniversary of the conflict, we cannot make clearer the desperation that civilians are facing in Sudan,” said Edem Wosornu of the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA – one of three senior officials who briefed ambassadors.

The meeting was convened following OCHA’s submission of a white paper on food insecurity in Sudan last Friday. 

This was done in line with a 2018 Council resolution that requests the UN Secretary-General to promptly report when the risk of conflict-induced famine and widespread food insecurity occurs.

Agricultural production halted 

The war between the Sudanese army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has left 18 million people – more than a third of the population – facing acute food insecurity.

The majority, or about 90 per cent, are in conflict hotspots in the Darfur and Kordofan region, and in Khartoum and Al Jazirah states.

Fighting has restricted agricultural production, damaged major infrastructure, caused prices to spiral and disrupted trade flows, among other devastating impacts.

Maurizio Martina, Deputy Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that hostilities are expanding across southeastern states, the country’s breadbasket, responsible for half of all wheat production.

An FAO report issued this week showed that cereal production last year dropped by nearly half, 46 per cent.

“Cereal import requirements in 2024, forecast at about 3.38 million tonnes, raise concerns about the financial and logistical capacity of the country to meet these import needs. And high production costs of cereals are likely to further inflate market prices, which are already at exceptionally high levels,” he said.

Malnutrition rates soaring 

Currently, around 730,000 people in Sudan are suffering from malnutrition, which is soaring to alarming rates and already claiming young lives.

Ms. Wosornu cited a recent report from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) which revealed that a child is dying every two hours at the Zamzam camp in El Fasher, North Darfur. 

“Our humanitarian partners estimate that in the coming weeks and months, somewhere in the region of around 222,000 children could die from malnutrition,” she said.

Obstacles to aid delivery 

Although aid should be “a lifeline” in Sudan, she said humanitarians continue to face obstacles in reaching people in need.

The Council adopted a resolution earlier this month calling for full and unhindered humanitarian access in Sudan, however “there has not been major progress on the ground.” 

Ms. Wosornu said humanitarians have welcomed Sudan’s recent announcement to again allow aid into the country through the Tine border crossing with Chad, although procedures have yet to be elaborated.

The authorities have also agreed to allow 60 trucks to enter through Adre in Chad into West Darfur, and she said a convoy carrying aid that includes food for more than 175,000 people is being prepared for deployment in the coming days. 

“These are positive steps, but they are far from enough in the face of looming famine,” she added, stressing the need for crossline aid delivery within Sudan, as well as greater protection for humanitarian staff and supplies.

Hunger stalking the region 

The Deputy Executive Director at the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Carl Skau, highlighted the wider regional context of the hunger crisis. 

Seven million people in South Sudan, and nearly three million in Chad, are also facing acute food insecurity, he said.

WFP teams have been working around the clock in Sudan to meet the massive needs, assisting some eight million people last year, but their operations are being hampered by the lack of both access and resources. 

“If we are going to prevent Sudan from becoming the world’s largest hunger crisis, coordinated efforts and joined-up diplomacy is urgent and critical. We need all parties to provide unrestricted access across borders and across conflict lines,” Mr. Skau said. 

Warning that rising hunger will only stoke instability across the region, he appealed for a rapid scale-up in financial and political support for emergency relief operations.  

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