Hunger may kill over 200,000 children, pregnant women and new mothers in Sudan

Sudan women
4 min read
05 April, 2024

Nearly 230,000 children, pregnant women and new mothers could die in the coming months due to hunger unless urgent, life-saving funding is released to respond to the massive and worsening crisis in Sudan.

More than 2.9 million children in Sudan are acutely malnourished and an additional 729,000 children under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition – the most dangerous and deadly form of extreme hunger, according to new figures released by the Nutrition Cluster in Sudan, a partnership of organisations including the UN, Federal Ministry of Health, and NGOs including Save the Children. 

"A humanitarian travesty is playing out in Sudan under a veil of international inattention and inaction"

Of these children, more than 109,000 are likely to have medical complications like dehydration, hypothermia and hypoglycemia, which require intensive and specialized care at a hospital to survive.

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“The nutrition situation and the ability of children and other vulnerable groups to get the food they need to grow and survive in Sudan is one of the worst in the world," said Dr Arif Noor, Country Director for Save the Children in Sudan said.

"No planting last year means no food today. No planting today means no food tomorrow. The cycle of hunger is getting worse and worse with no end in sight – only more misery.

“We are seeing massive hunger, suffering and death. And yet the world looks away. The international community must come together to act and prevent more lives being lost. History will remember this inaction,” Dr Arif added. 

Sudan is facing one of the largest unfolding crises globally. About 25 million people – of whom over 14 million are children – need humanitarian assistance and support. That is every second person in Sudan needing assistance to meet their basic needs.

Sudan among 'worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory': UN

Since April last year, fighting between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, has killed tens of thousands and led to acute food shortages and a looming risk of famine.

"By all measures, the sheer scale of humanitarian needs, the numbers of people displaced and facing hunger, Sudan is one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory," said Edem Wosornu, director of operations at the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

"A humanitarian travesty is playing out in Sudan under a veil of international inattention and inaction," Wosornu told the Security Council this month on behalf of UNOCHA head Martin Griffiths.

"Simply put, we are failing the people of Sudan," she added, describing the population's "desperation."

According to the UN, the conflict has seen more than eight million people displaced.

In total, more than 18 million Sudanese are facing acute food insecurity — a record during harvest season, and 10 million more than at this time last year — while 730,000 Sudanese children are thought to suffer from severe malnutrition.

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Malnutrition is "already claiming children's lives," Wosornu said, adding that humanitarian experts estimate some 222,000 children could die of the condition in the coming weeks and months.

Additionally, she said, children weakened from hunger are at a higher risk of dying from other preventable causes, as more than 70 percent of the country's health infrastructure has collapsed.

Aid workers sound the alarm over spiralling crisis

Sudanese aid worker Shakir Elhassan and his family were among millions forced to flee their homes and former lives after the war broke out.

Nearly a year on, he is one of many voices in the sector warning of a devastating humanitarian crisis that could soon spiral into famine.

"The needs are unprecedented. There is a huge gap in medicines and food," the communications manager at Care International said, deploring a lack of global attention.

Elhassan fled the capital Khartoum in July, joining his wife and three children who had already sought refuge 180 kilometres (110 miles) further south in the town of Wad Madani.

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But in December the RSF attacked the town in Jazirah state, which had become a "humanitarian hub" for the region.

"It was horrific, I moved out from Jazirah just with the clothes" on my back, he said.

"On the road, there were thousands of people moving on foot, in a state of panic. Most of them were women and children."

He and his family found shelter some 400 km east of there, in the provincial capital of Kassala state near the Eritrean border, where they still live and he says he sees a constant trickle of new arrivals.

"People arrive in Kassala exhausted, some of them sick, starving. Many of them told me they are bankrupt," he said.

"I have seen thousands of people here sheltering in very poor conditions," he revealed.