UN warns of catastrophic hunger in Sudan in coming months

UN warns of catastrophic hunger in Sudan in coming months
UNICEF warned of a potential catastrophic loss of lives in Sudan as the civil war worsens hunger and called for a massive mobilisation of resources.
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Volunteers prepare food for internally displaced Muslim devotees for their breaking fast meal during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in Gedaref on March 13, 2024 [Getty]

Nearly five million people in Sudan could suffer catastrophic hunger in parts of the war-torn country in the coming months, United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths warned the Security Council on Friday in a note seen by news agency Reuters.

Griffiths said acute levels of hunger were being driven by the severe impact of the conflict on agricultural production, damage to major infrastructure and livelihoods, disruptions to trade flows, severe price increases, impediments to humanitarian access and large-scale displacement.

"Without urgent humanitarian assistance and access to basic commodities ... almost 5 million people could slip into catastrophic food insecurity in some parts of the country in the coming months," Griffiths wrote.

He said it was likely that some people in West and Central Darfur would move into those famine conditions as security worsens and the lean season starts. Cross-border aid delivery from Chad to Darfur is a "critical lifeline," Griffiths said.

Nearly 730,000 children throughout Sudan are projected to suffer severe acute malnutrition, including over 240,000 children in Darfur, Griffiths wrote.

"An unprecedented surge in the treatment of severe wasting, the most lethal manifestation of malnutrition, is already being observed in accessible areas," Griffiths said.

War erupted in Sudan on April 15, 2023, between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The UN has said nearly 25 million people - half Sudan's population - need aid and some 8 million have fled their homes. The US says the warring parties have committed war crimes.

Under a 2018 Security Council resolution, the UN secretary-general is required to report to the 15-member body when there is a "risk of conflict-induced famine and widespread food insecurity in armed conflict."

Since the start of the war in Sudan, Griffiths said, more than 1,000 aid access incidents had been recorded that had "adversely impacted humanitarian operations." He said 71% were due to conflict or intentional violence against humanitarian assets or aid workers.

Mandeep O'Brien, UNICEF representative in Sudan, said 14 million children needed humanitarian aid and four million were displaced.

There was only a "small window left to prevent mass loss of children lives and future", she warned on X, formerly Twitter.

World Health Organization regional director Hanan Balkhy, who recently returned from a trip to Sudan, underlined the acute needs in Darfur, saying most health facilities were looted, damaged or destroyed.

The UN on Friday called for more financial support for aid operations in Sudan.

UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told reporters in Geneva that the world body had appealed for $2.7 billion to provide aid this year, but had received just five percent of that amount so far.

The war between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, has since April last year killed tens of thousands, destroyed infrastructure and crippled the economy.

It has triggered a dire humanitarian crisis and acute food shortages, with the country teetering on the brink of famine.