WFP Warns That Hunger Catastrophe Looms in Conflict-Hit Sudan Without Urgent Food Assistance

Photo: WFP/Leni Kinzli/2020
Published December 13, 2023

PORT SUDAN – Parts of war-ravaged Sudan are at a high risk of slipping into catastrophic hunger conditions by next year’s lean season if the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is unable to expand access and regularly deliver food assistance to people trapped in conflict hotspots such as Khartoum, the Darfurs and the Kordofans, warns the U.N. food agency today.

Sudan – once described as East Africa’s future breadbasket – is facing a deepening hunger crisis as the conflict raging across the country approaches its eighth month. A new food security analysis for Sudan shows the highest levels of hunger ever recorded during the harvest season (October through February), typically a period where more food is available. If there is no significant increase in food assistance by the time the lean season arrives next May, conflict hotspots could see the emergence of catastrophic hunger, also known as Phase 5 on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

“We urgently call on all parties to the conflict for a humanitarian pause and unfettered access to avert a hunger catastrophe in the upcoming lean season. Lives depend on it, yet there are far too many people trapped in areas with active fighting who we can only reach sporadically, if at all,” said WFP Country Director and Representative in Sudan Eddie Rowe.

Nearly 18 million people across Sudan are facing acute hunger (IPC3+) – more than double the number at the same time a year ago. This figure is also higher than the initial projection of 15 million made in the previous assessment in August, demonstrating just how rapidly the food security situation is worsening.

Currently, close to 5 million people are in emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC4) with over three-quarters of these people cornered in areas where humanitarian access has been intermittent and, in some areas, impossible due to ongoing fighting.

Since the start of the conflict, the U.N. World Food Programme has provided lifesaving assistance to over 5 million people, preventing an even worse deterioration of food security, especially in eastern and northern Sudan. Despite this, regular and safe humanitarian access to civilians in areas worst hit by violence has been inadequate. The U.N. World Food Programme has taken advantage of momentary lulls in fighting to reach families in greater Khartoum with food assistance but has only managed to reach the capital once in the last three months. Overall, of the people that the U.N. World Food Programme has identified as most urgently in need of food assistance in the Khartoum metropolitan area, only one in five has received food aid since the conflict started.

Regular convoys of food assistance have travelled from Chad to West and Central Darfur since August, providing half a million people with food assistance. Yet, people in other parts of the Darfur region have not received any assistance since June despite the U.N. World Food Programme’s repeated attempts to obtain safe access.

“The speed at which hunger has risen over the past year is alarming. More and more people are struggling to eat a basic meal a day, and unless things change there is a very real risk they won’t even be able to do that,” concluded Rowe.

The key drivers of the plunge into hunger include intensified conflict and growing intercommunal violence, a macroeconomic crisis, soaring prices of food, fuel, and essential goods, and below average agricultural production.

Note to the Editors:

“Catastrophe” and “Famine” are both classifications of IPC/CH Phase 5, indicating dire food security situations. However, there are notable differences between the two: IPC/CH Phase 5 “Catastrophe” denotes an extreme food crisis and is classified at household level rather than in a geographical area. Households can be classified as being in “Catastrophe” even when a full famine declaration for a specific geographic area was not reached. IPC/CH Phase 5 “Famine” represents the most extreme form of acute food insecurity and can only be made via an IPC classification at a specific geographic level.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the world’s leading humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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