Sudan, where civilians die in silence

Global warming and climate change, the fast moving crisis, are accompanied by the shadows of conflicts and chaos. As many as 18 million out of a population of 45 million are in grave risk of catastrophic famine in Sudan today.

Sudan, where civilians die in silence

People of Sudan (Photo:Reuters)

Planet earth is confronted with multiple threats. Global warming and climate change, the fast moving crisis, are accompanied by the shadows of conflicts and chaos. As many as 18 million out of a population of 45 million are in grave risk of catastrophic famine in Sudan today. Sudan is not the only country currently suffering from severe food crisis. There are other food emergencies in Ethopia, Gaza, Yemen, and Somalia. But what is currently unfolding in Sudan appears to be the biggest food crisis the world has seen in decades. The Clingendael Report 2024 has vividly analyzed the famine situation in Sudan.

Tragedy trajectory:-
In mid-April 2023, a rivalry between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Mohamad Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo broke into open conflict. Since then, the fighting and significant destruction, paired with much lower agricultural production, have sent food prices soaring and made it extremely hard to find enough to eat.

The conflict has forced more than 8 million people to flee their homes. The horrifying tale of conflict is described by Arafa, a refugee from Sudan thus: “I spent the night in fear, unable to go out of my house as people were being killed everywhere. The next day, I woke up terrified to a phone call from my husband’s friend telling me that my husband had been shot and was dead.” Both warring sides pose obstacles, trying to prevent food from getting to areas controlled by their rival.


Food crisis is compounded by the nearly two-month mobile network shutdown. This has cut people off from remittances sent by relatives overseas, a critical lifeline for many that they have been using to receive via mobile banking apps. Without cash, people have resorted to extreme mechanisms to put food on the table. Parents, skip meals for their children. They sell their last possessions, begging for money from medicine to food, as reported by activists on the ground.

Dallia Abdelmoniem, a political commentator working in policy and advocacy for Sudanese think tank Fikra, received reports of women forced to exchange sex for food and become mistresses of armed forces to ensure safety and access to food. Another activist working with female victims of gender based violence in Sudan is reported to have said ‘survival sex’ has emerged as a common trend.

Collapse of health care system adds insult to the injury of hunger crisis, as it were. UK Charity Save the Children reported that 2,30,000 children, pregnant women and new mothers would die in the coming months due to hunger.

Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations and Advocacy in the office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has said, “Sudan is one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory, precipitating the world’s largest international displacement crisis and on course to become the world’s worst hunger crisis.”

Echoing that warning, Carl Skau, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations WFP, said that 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. The WFP has been working tirelessly to meet the massive humanitarian needs, with its team risking their own safety. However, the emergency relief operation is severely hampered by a lack of access and resources; 90% of the people in phase 4 of the IPC- the Integrated Phase Classification for measuring food security-are trapped in areas that are largely inaccessible to humanitarian agencies.

How to mitigate ?
1. The performance of 2023 cereal production season was vary poor and that the high production costs of cereals are likely to further inflate exceptionally high market prices. The food production 2024 appears to be bleak. In such a situation, a peaceful political solution and immediate cessasion of hostilities is the essential first step to eliminate the risk of famine. Thereby, farmers can access to land and inputs.

2. Funds for life -saving agricultural assistance must come now from international donors and agencies.

3. It is an irony that Sudan-a breadbasket known for its abundant resources and agricultural traditions-is facing the worst famine in decades. Ensuring unrestricted access for humanitarian aid to reach affected areas across borders and front lines is the need of the hour.

4. International cooperation aimed at rebuilding Sudan is urgently called for.

5. Injection of mobile cash directly to local producers as well as to consumers and local aid providers by setting up of more Emergency Response Rooms is of critical importance. This would help enhance people’s coping mechanism.

6. Scale up food aid and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Support. Erosion of empathy and indifference of the international community seem to be deeper as more insidious malaise aggravate the situation in Sudan. The implications of collective apathy are grave and profound. The humanitarian aid should not be used as a political tool to pressurise Sudan to dance to the tune of donors. This might prolong the turmoil.

7. The US, the E.U., the UK and Norway, as well as the UN and INGO partners must urgently and massively scale up meaningful assistance to Sudan in such a crisis.

8. No outside country should support, finance and supply weapons to Rapid Support Forces.

9. Sudan needs help to combat epidemics and strengthen its infrastructure for irrigation and to better use seeds and grain provided by FAO.

10. Fund curtailment to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency by the U.S. and other donor countries should be stopped immediately.

11. Some of the hunger fighting initiatives adopted by India such as National Nutrition Mission, National Food Security Mission, Zero Hunger Programme, Eat Right India Movement and efforts towards food fortification may be tried out in Sudan.

Sudan is experiencing a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. It is reported that in some areas people eat soil and leaves to survive. By all accounts -the scale of escalating needs, the number of people displaced and facing potential famine- Sudan is one of the worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory leading to 13 percent of the global internally displaced persons world wide. The Sudan Famine Prevention Plan 2024 issued by humanitarian partners to mitigate food security crisis leaves much to be desired.

(Columnist is a freelance researcher on International diplomacy.)