Sudan is on track to become the world’s worst hunger crisis, and children are already dying, says UN

UNITED NATIONS –

The nearly year-long conflict between Sudan’s military and paramilitary forces has put the African nation on track to become the world’s worst hunger crisis, with rising malnutrition already claiming children’s lives, it warned Wednesday. the UN humanitarian office.

Edem Wosornu, director of humanitarian operations, told the UN Security Council that already a third of Sudan’s population (18 million people) faces severe food insecurity, and that in some areas of the western Darfur region Catastrophic levels of hunger could be reached when “the lean season” arrives in May.

“A recent assessment revealed that a child dies every two hours in the Zamzam camp in El Fasher, North Darfur,” he said. “Our humanitarian partners estimate that in the coming weeks and months, around 222,000 children could die from malnutrition.”

Wosornu called the harrowing violent situation that has seen appalling accounts of ethnically motivated attacks, sexual violence, including gang rapes, and indiscriminate attacks in densely populated areas, as “the stuff of nightmares.”

Now that the world’s focus is on the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and, to a lesser extent, on the war in Ukraine, he lamented that “a humanitarian travesty is unfolding in Sudan under a veil of international inattention and inaction.” .

Sudan descended into chaos last April, when long-simmering tensions between its army led by General Abdel Fattah Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo erupted into street battles in the capital, Khartoum.

The fighting quickly spread to other parts of the country, especially urban areas, but in Darfur it took a different form, with brutal attacks by the Arab-dominated Rapid Support Forces against ethnic African civilians. Thousands of people have been killed.

Two decades ago, Darfur became synonymous with genocide and war crimes, particularly by the notorious Arab Janjaweed militias against populations identifying as Central or East African. In late January, International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said there is reason to believe that both sides in the current conflict are committing possible war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Darfur.

The UN’s Wosornu said there has been no let-up in the fierce fighting in Khartoum, Darfur and Kordofan, where 90 percent of the people facing emergency levels of food insecurity live.

Farmers have been forced to abandon their fields and grain production has declined since hostilities moved to Sudan’s breadbasket, Jazeera state, in December, he said.

Under these circumstances, the delivery of humanitarian aid should be a lifeline, Wosornu said, but the UN’s $2.7 billion appeal for Sudan was less than five percent funded, receiving only $131 million.

He expressed hope that a high-level donor conference for Sudan and its neighbors in Paris on April 15 will lead to “tangible commitments” to support aid operations “in the face of the looming famine.”

Additionally, Wosornu said, the UN must have access to reach the most vulnerable people in the states of Khartoum, Darfur, Kordofan and Jazeera, which “continue to be severely hampered” by the fighting. It also needs more cross-border openings and approvals to deliver aid across conflict lines, he said.

Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the UN World Food Programme, told the council that the rapidly worsening food security situation in Sudan also has “profound regional implications”.

In addition to the 18 million people facing acute food insecurity in Sudan, he said seven million people in neighboring South Sudan and nearly three million in Chad, which borders Darfur, also face extreme hunger.

Currently, Skau said, 90 percent of people who are one step away from the catastrophic level of food security and urgently need life-saving food “are trapped in areas that are largely inaccessible to humanitarian agencies,” including Khartoum, Jazeera, Kordofan and Darfur.

“If we are to prevent Sudan from becoming the world’s largest hunger crisis, coordinated efforts and joint diplomacy are urgent and critical,” he said. “We need all parties to provide unfettered access – across borders and conflict lines.”

Echoing Wosornu’s call for funding, he said WFP had to cut assistance to three million acutely hungry people in South Sudan and reduce rations to others in need due to lack of money. And in Chad, he said, WFP will have to end assistance to 1.2 million refugees and almost three million Chadians.

Skau expressed concern that hunger will increase further when Sudan’s lean season hits and could lead to catastrophic food insecurity unless there is sustained access and resources.

Rein Paulsen, director of FAO’s Office of Emergencies and Resilience, said at a news conference that an agency report on Sudan published on Tuesday demonstrates the damage of the conflict to agricultural production: Cereal production in 2023 fell by 46 percent compared to 2022, and up to 80 percent. down in the areas where the conflict was most intense.

“The outlook for food production in 2024 is bleak,” he said.

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