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UN warns of catastrophic hunger in Sudan in coming months

Updated: 9:30am (AEDT)
Geneva, Switerzland


Nearly five million people in Sudan could suffer catastrophic hunger in parts of the war-torn country in the coming months, United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths warned the Security Council on Friday in a note seen by Reuters.

Griffiths said acute levels of hunger were being driven by the severe impact of the conflict on agricultural production, damage to major infrastructure and livelihoods, disruptions to trade flows, severe price increases, impediments to humanitarian access and large-scale displacement.

A boy sits atop a hill overlooking a refugee camp near the Chad-Sudan border, on 9th November, 2023. PICTURE: Reuters/El Tayeb Siddig/File photo

“Without urgent humanitarian assistance and access to basic commodities…almost five million people could slip into catastrophic food insecurity in some parts of the country in the coming months,” Griffiths wrote.

He said it was likely that some people in West and Central Darfur would move into those famine conditions as security worsens and the lean season starts. Cross-border aid delivery from Chad to Darfur is a “critical lifeline,” Griffiths said.

Nearly 730,000 children throughout Sudan are projected to suffer severe acute malnutrition, including over 240,000 children in Darfur, Griffiths wrote.

“An unprecedented surge in the treatment of severe wasting, the most lethal manifestation of malnutrition, is already being observed in accessible areas,” Griffiths said.

War erupted in Sudan on 15th April, 2023, between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The UN has said nearly 25 million people – half Sudan’s population – need aid and some eight million have fled their homes. The US says the warring parties have committed war crimes.

Under a 2018 Security Council resolution, the UN secretary-general is required to report to the 15-member body when there is a “risk of conflict-induced famine and widespread food insecurity in armed conflict.”

Since the start of the war in Sudan, Griffiths said, more than 1,000 aid access incidents had been recorded that had “adversely impacted humanitarian operations.” He said 71 per cent were due to conflict or intentional violence against humanitarian assets or aid workers.

Meanwhile, the UN children’s agency warned on Friday of a potential catastrophic loss of lives in Sudan as the civil war worsens hunger and called for a massive mobilisation of resources.

“The brutal war in Sudan is pushing the country towards a famine and unless there is sufficient political will, attention and resources put towards the response now, we are looking at a potential catastrophic loss of lives,” Jill Lawler, chief of field operations and emergency for UNICEF in Sudan, said at a UN briefing in Geneva.

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She was part of the first UN mission back to the capital Khartoum since fighting between the army and the RSF began there in April, 2023. The 12-person team found malnourished children living in pitch black hospitals because their generators had failed, she said.

A three-month-old baby was extremely sick because the mother, who could not afford milk, had substituted goat milk leading to diarrhoea. “Hunger is pervasive – it is the number one concern people expressed,” said Lawler.

In another facility, up to three patients were sharing beds.

The agency has previously warned that up to 3.7 million children are projected to be acutely malnourished this year in Sudan, including 730,000 who need lifesaving treatment.


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