Sudan faces famine without more support, warns US special envoy

US leaders issue urgent call for more global attention to the civil war that has displaced 10 million people and prompted accusations of genocide

A lack of international attention to the devastating civil war is exacerbating the suffering. Getty Images
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Sudan will face famine by “default” without more international attention and support, the US special envoy, Tom Perriello, said on Wednesday as a potential battle over the key city of El Fasher looms.

Mr Perriello told the Senate foreign relations committee that food insecurity and malnutrition in the country has reached “alarming rates”.

“I do want to be absolutely clear that the default trajectory is towards famine, an increasingly factionalised state that brings in regional actors and presents enormous and unconscionable humanitarian costs,” he said.

“Driven by the conflict, the destruction of harvest, food shortages and the block of aid, nearly 80 million people now face food insecurity.”

The threat of violence coming to El Fasher could exacerbate efforts to deliver desperately needed aid into a large bloc of Sudan.

The city has, for years, been a centre for aid groups operating in the country's western region, and a key transit stop for shipments from neighbouring Chad or Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

It is also the only one of Darfur’s five state capitals not controlled by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which is at war with the Sudanese military.

A lack of international attention to the devastating civil war, which has displaced more than 10 million people, is also exacerbating the suffering.

“I've heard over and over again, the re-traumatisation of getting outside and realising the world didn't even know what was going on,” Mr Perriello told the committee.

Democratic Senator Cory Booker, who recently returned from a trip to the region with Mr Perriello, condemned the approach of western and wealthy nations to Sudan.

“When you see press story after press story about so many other areas in the world but a lack of [coverage] for this crisis, its enormity, the millions of lives affected, you see a poverty of attention … what we're seeing towards the people of Sudan is a poverty of empathy,” Mr Booker said.

Congress last week passed a massive foreign aid supplemental funding bill that included Sudan, “which is having an immediate effect on the ability … to save lives”, Mr Perriello said.

He said external regional actors are complicating the war, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The UAE recently rejected claims from Sudan at the UN that it was supporting the RSF.

Lana Nusseibeh, Assistant Minister for Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the UAE had submitted a letter to the UN Security Council stressing the spread of “disinformation and false narratives” undermining efforts to address Sudan's humanitarian crisis.

Washington is appealing for more countries to engage in building an international sanctions regime against those responsible for war crimes on both sides.

Republican committee ranking member Jim Risch sounded sceptical that President Joe Biden's administration was on a path to success with the state of current peace negotiations in Jeddah.

“Emergency diplomacy with Saudi Arabia in Jeddah has repeatedly failed, but you're recommending another round of talks," Mr Risch said.

"Talks can be important. This committee needs to know why these talks will be different."

Updated: May 01, 2024, 7:22 PM