Sudan now ‘one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent memory': UN

Hundreds of thousands at risk of hunger as the humanitarian crisis deepens.

March 21, 2024, 8:24 AM

LONDON -- Humanitarian organizations are sounding alarm over the crisis in Sudan, warning the conflict has created "one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent memory."

Speaking at a briefing to the security council on the humanitarian situation in Sudan, Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations and Advocacy at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) warned of a “fast-reaching and fast-deteriorating situation of food insecurity” in Sudan following 11 months of conflict.

“It is truly the stuff of nightmares,” said Wosronu. “In Khartoum, Darfur, and Kordofan -- which are home to 90% of people facing emergency levels of acute food insecurity -- there has been no respite from the fierce fighting for 340 days.”

"Now, as the conflict rages on, Sudan is on course to become the world's worst hunger crisis. Already, 18 million people -- more than one third of the country’s population -- are facing acute food insecurity."

“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.”

The U.N. warns that that by May, parts of Darfur could face IPC Phase 5 level acute food insecurity, the highest stage on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification scale.

“We call this stage catastrophe,” said the U.N.

Hostilities in Sudan’s breadbasket state, Al Jazirah -- which is responsible for almost half of Sudan’s wheat production -- has further jeopardized the food security situation in the country.

Humanitarian organizations tell ABC News that farmers have been unable to tend to their crops and the conflict has been driving up the prices of basic commodities, some items by almost 300%. The U.N. says natural cereal production and supply of animal-sourced food like milk has also plummeted.

PHOTO: Sudanese women who fled the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, and were previously internally displaced in Sudan, carry jerrycans of water, near the border between Sudan and Chad, while taking refuge in Borota, Chad, May 13, 2023.
Sudanese women who fled the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, and were previously internally displaced in Sudan, carry jerrycans of water, near the border between Sudan and Chad, while taking refuge in Borota, Chad, May 13, 2023.
Zohra Bensemra/Reuters, FILE

“Hostilities have resulted in extensive damage, looting and widespread destruction of critical infrastructure, including food and nutrition manufacturing facilities -- once the pride of Sudan,” said Wosronu.

Without "urgent" action, children’s charity Save the Children warns almost 230,000 children, pregnant women and new mothers could die from hunger in the coming months. Over 2.9 million children are already "acutely malnourished" warns the charity, and an additional 729,000 under the age of 5 are also facing severe acute malnutrition.

Fighting erupted in Sudan on April 15, 2023, after a culmination of weeks of tensions linked to a planned transition to civilian rule. General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group (RSF) -- once allies who jointly orchestrated a military coup in 2021 -- are now engaged in a vicious and ongoing power struggle.

As fighting continues between the warring parties, at least 14,000 people have been killed according to verified figures. However, local groups warn that the toll is likely to be much higher as the true scale of the conflict continues to be uncovered.

A State Department spokesperson told ABC News in February that the United States is “gravely concerned” about the “deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sudan.”

“We already have reports of people starving to death in Sudan and babies dying every day at IDP camps in Sudan. More than half of Sudan’s population, nearly 25 million, are experiencing severe protection concerns, widespread shortages of essential items and limited access to services across the country, exacerbating food, health and other humanitarian needs. Millions of Sudanese face the risk of famine in the coming months due to this devastating conflict.”

Both warring parties have been found to have restricted ‘delivery, access and distribution’ of humanitarian aid since the conflict broke out in April 15, 2023, and the World Food Program (WFP) says it has been unable to get sufficient emergency assistance to communities in need due to "relentless violence and interference by the warring parties."

“We cannot explain in greater terms the catastrophic situation,” said Wosronu. “And we cannot underscore more the need for Council action.”