Third of all Sudanese 'food insecure in first three months of year'

UN World Food Programme says situation will further deteriorate in third quarter, as stocks dwindle and prices rise

A bus drives past a fruit vendor in the Jarif West district of Sudan's capital Khartoum. AFP
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A third of Sudan’s 44 million people are facing hunger as a result of climate change and the fallout from the war in Ukraine, the UN World Food Programme said in an assessment released on Thursday.

It said the combined effects of Sudan’s political and economic crisis were also impacting people’s access to food, with 34 per cent of the population, or 15 million people, “food insecure” in the first three months of the year.

Things were expected to get worse as the year progresses, it said.

A military coup last October toppled a civilian-led government and tore up a partnership with pro-democracy groups in a transitional administration that took office after the April 2019 overthrow of dictator Omar Al Bashir.

The military takeover plunged Sudan into a political crisis and deepened the woes of the already battered economy. The suspension of billions of dollars’ worth of desperately-needed western aid and a debt forgiveness programme devastated the economy.

The surge in food prices caused by the fallout from the Ukraine war only made matters worse.

Near-daily street protests against military rule have further rocked the Afro-Arab nation. At least 102 protesters have been killed since the October 25 coup, including one shot in the chest during rallies on Thursday, according to a medical group aligned with the opposition but widely recognised for its reliability.

Another 5,000 people have been injured in the protests, according to UN figures.

The number of "food insecure" people in the first quarter of 2022 constitutes a seven per cent increase on last year’s number, according to the WFP report.

It said the highest concentration of food insecurity was in West Darfur (65 per cent), Central Darfur (59 per cent), North Darfur (56 per cent), and Blue Nile (50 per cent).

All four areas are torn by long-running conflicts.

“… the surge in conflict and intercommunal violence in parts of Darfur and the Kordofans has eroded livelihoods, destroyed food stocks, damaged farms, disrupted markets, and triggered widespread displacement, as well as constrained humanitarian access,” said the report.

Darfur has in recent months been plagued by a series of deadly tribal clashes that are reminiscent of the region’s ruinous civil war of the early 2000s when non-Arab residents rose up against what they perceived to be discrimination against them by the Arabised elite in the north of the country.

The latest bout of violence in Darfur took place a week ago, leaving more than 100 people dead.

The WFP report predicted that food prices were expected to further rise as local stocks run low and global food prices, driven by the Ukraine war, continue to increase.

Meanwhile, the rising cost of fuel, fertilisers and other essential agricultural input items would impact the upcoming planting season, it said.

“Farmers will be forced to plant less, adopt cash-crop production, or assume alternative livelihood activities, leading to lower yields and thereby impacting food availability.

“High production costs will also unfold into high food prices during the harvest.

“The level of food insecurity may reach up to 40 per cent (18 million people) by the third quarter of 2022,” it predicted.

“We must act now to avoid increasing hunger levels and to save the lives of those already affected,” according to WFP’s country director in Sudan, Eddie Rowe.

Updated: June 16, 2022, 5:40 PM