Remarks by Carl Skau, WFP Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, at the Security Council Session: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Photo: WFP/Hugh Rutherford/2024
Published March 20, 2024

Thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity to brief the Council on the rapidly worsening food security situation in Sudan and the profound regional implications of this crisis.

Since the conflict broke out last year, hunger and acute malnutrition have soared. As the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) just pointed out, there is a real, and growing risk, that the violence in Sudan will soon create the world’s largest hunger crisis.

Across the region, nearly 28 million people face acute food insecurity with 18 million in Sudan, 7 million in South Sudan and nearly 3 million in Chad.

Within Sudan, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been working day and night to meet the massive humanitarian needs, with our team risking their own lives and safety to help others. Last year, we assisted nearly 8 million people.

But our emergency relief operation is being severely hampered by a lack of access and a lack of resources.

Currently, 90% of the people in IPC Phase 4, who urgently need lifesaving food assistance, are trapped in areas that are largely inaccessible to humanitarian agencies. These include conflict hotspots such as Khartoum, Gezira State, the Kordofans and the Darfur States.

Our efforts to reach these civilians are challenged by the relentless violence, and by interference from the warring parties.

And bureaucratic obstacles are further shrinking the space for humanitarians to operate.

We welcome the recent announcement by the authorities in Port Sudan that will allow the U.N. World Food Programme to resume cross-border aid deliveries from Chad and open a new corridor from South Sudan. The U.N. World Food Programme’s inability to move aid in since permissions were revoked has impeded our plan to reach about 1 million people each month across Darfur.

But more border crossings must also reopen to get aid into the greater Darfur region, which has recorded some of the highest rates of hunger and malnutrition.

And cross-border operations are not the only solution, as they are considerably more expensive and time-consuming. Within Sudan, we also need access across conflict lines, as a more cost-effective and efficient way to scale up our operations.

We are also deeply concerned that hunger will spike even higher in the weeks ahead, when Sudan’s lean season arrives in May. Without sustained access and resources needed to scale up our responses, there is a high risk we will see IPC level 5 or catastrophic food insecurity.

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

Mr. President, this conflict has turned Sudan into the world’s worst displacement crisis, scattering over 8 million people internally and across Sudan’s borders, sparking wider regional destabilization.

Nearly 2 million people have fled into neighboring countries to escape the bloodshed – and thousands more are expected to follow this year.

This is putting mounting pressure on Chad and South Sudan, which are already grappling with dangerous levels of food insecurity. And humanitarian agencies are being forced to make harsh choices for an already underfunded, and overstretched, humanitarian operation.

In South Sudan, due to lack of funds, 3 million acutely hungry people are receiving no assistance from the U.N. World Food Programme, and those we are able to help, are receiving reduced rations.

Similarly, in Chad, the U.N. World Food Programme will have to end all its support to the 1.2 million refugees in the country and nearly 3 million acutely hungry Chadians. All this is happening as we enter the peak of the lean season.

The U.N. World Food Programme’s ability to pre-position supplies in the east of Chad, before the rains arrive in June, is also being threatened by resource constraints.

Mr. President, rising hunger will only stoke instability across this region of Africa.

The international community needs to rapidly increase support for our emergency relief operations – financially and politically.

Diplomatic efforts are needed to secure humanitarian access to the cut-off populations in Sudan now threatened by starvation.

And, fundamentally, this forgotten crisis requires political solutions to halt the fighting that is tearing the country apart.

We are running out of time. And we look now to this Council to step up its commitments under Resolution 2417, taking urgent actions to avert a hunger catastrophe in Sudan and in the broader region, alleviating suffering and saving the lives of the desperate civilians that are stuck in this inferno of fighting and hunger.