The humanitarian situation in Sudan is teetering on the brink of catastrophe after conflict erupted across the country in the middle of April 2023. Hunger was already on the rise, with each year since 2020 registering record levels food insecurity which the ongoing fighting is now worsening. More than 6 million people are on the edge of famine and 20.3 million people – 42 percent of the population – face acute food insecurity.
Violence continues to spread, which could plunge millions more into hunger, while making it harder for farmers to produce key staple crops as prices of seeds, fertilizers, and fuel are soaring while supply chains and trade routes to transport goods are disrupted.
After a brief pause due to ongoing unrest and insecurity, WFP restarted its operations to address the immediate needs of refugees, host communities and internally displaced people. WFP has activated its highest level of emergency response for the operation.
Over 1 million Sudanese have fled the country for Egypt, South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Chad. WFP is assisting newly arrived refugees with emergency food assistance. However, the organization is concerned about the food security situation in neighbouring countries, many of which are already dealing with multiple crises of their own.
Over 42 percent of Sudan’s population – more than 20 million people – face hunger. This is the highest number ever recorded in the country. In addition to conflict, increasing food and fuel prices, the pre-existing economic crisis, protracted displacement, poor harvests and climate shocks, such as floods and droughts, are the main drivers of food insecurity.
Inflation continues to reduce households’ purchasing power, with people unable to meet their basic needs. Approximately 85 percent of resident households spend more than 65 percent of their total income on food, while 36 percent could be unable to afford the contents of a single WFP food basket.
Food prices in Sudan in 2023 are 29 percent higher than the previous year and 228 percent higher than two years ago.
Sudan continues to face persistently high levels of acute malnutrition and stunting, which constitute a significant public health problem. Around 4.6 million children and pregnant or nursing women suffer from malnutrition in Sudan.
The deterioration of the nutrition situation has led to an estimated 30 percent increase in the number of children with acute malnutrition in hotspot areas; a 15 percent increase in internally displaced persons hosting states; and a 10 percent increase in other localities. States expected to see the highest levels of food insecurity in the next three to six months are: West Darfur, Khartoum and South Kordofan, Central East and South Darfur as well as West Kordofan.
As of June 2023, 30 percent of the population could not afford the local food basket. Given the ongoing conflict, in which food value chains are greatly disrupted, as well as the ongoing lean season, food prices are anticipated to spike even further in the coming months.
Two-thirds of the population live in rural areas, with the economy heavily dependent on agriculture. Current rains have so far been below average. This, combined with high prices of seeds, fertilizers, fuel and labour, could reduce agricultural production during the upcoming harvest season starting in October, potentially pushing more people into hunger and others into deeper levels of hunger over the next year.
Moreover, conflict has engulfed the capital, Khartoum, the heart of the country’s economy, disrupting internal trade routes, threatening imports and triggering a cash crunch.
Despite widespread insecurity and access constraints, WFP has delivered life-saving food and nutrition assistance to around 2 million people in 16 of 18 states across Sudan – including in some of the most hard-to-reach areas in the Darfur region.
On 15 April 2023, WFP activated its highest level of emergency in Sudan after the conflict erupted. In the aftermath of this crisis and amid access constraints due to insecurity, WFP aims to reach 6.7 million people with emergency food assistance, nutrition support, prevention and treatment of malnutrition by 2023. WFP supported 9.3 million people in Sudan in 2022.
What WFP is doing in Sudan
WFP provides food assistance as a first lifeline and works to ensure that people affected by shocks have access to food. Vulnerable refugees, internally displaced people, returnees and shock-affected resident communities receive either food or cash, to provide choice. Through Food Assistance for Assets programmes, communities receive food or cash to fill their immediate food gap. In return, community members work on projects including building or restoring infrastructure like roads or schools.
WFP aims to prevent and treat moderate acute malnutrition in emergency and recovery situations, reduce stunting (low height for age due to chronic malnutrition) and prevent mineral and vitamin deficiencies through nutrition-specific initiatives. WFP provides ready-to-use-supplementary food to children under 5 and pregnant or nursing mothers who have been diagnosed with MAM. In collaboration with the private sector, WFP launched VITAMINO, a micronutrient product that is distributed to internally displaced people, refugees and vulnerable residents, and that is sold through retail outlets to reach urban populations. WFP also supports national efforts to promote consumption of fortified foods and provides technical assistance for the development of relevant legislation and standards.
Food systems and safety nets
WFP helps to improve food systems and safety nets to strengthen the resilience of food-insecure families. Through training in vocational skills, people are able to improve their livelihood opportunities and increase their income. WFP also supports farmers in accessing markets, while improving irrigation systems to boost agricultural productivity.
Farmers in Sudan lose an estimated 30 percent of their crops after harvest, often due to improper storage. To reduce post-harvest losses, WFP is promoting the use of hermetic storage bags and airtight silos among smallholder famers, thereby creating a market demand. Farmers improve their profit margins, with more of their crops safely stored for selling on the market. Meanwhile, WFP is also engaging the private sector to make the hermetic bags readily available on the market at reasonable prices, which also helps to boost the local economy.
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