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Sudan Faces Worst Food Crisis in Recent History

Children push their plates out to receive a portion of cooked grains during a lunchtime feeding program initiative by UNICEF and WFP with the aim of providing daily meals to 75,000 children in Aweil, N. Bahr el Ghazal state, S. Sudan, March 26, 2019.

Sudan is facing the worst food security crisis in its recent history according to the United Nations. Nearly a quarter of Sudan’s 45 million population is severely food insecure, including those living in the capital, Khartoum.

This month 10 humanitarian partners in Sudan, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Food Program and the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization released an report that indicates 9.6 million Sudanese are in “high acute food insecurity” due to conflict, high inflation, and COVID-19.

“These numbers are the highest ever recorded in the history of the [Integrated] Food Security Phase Classification analysis in Sudan,” said United Nations Secretary General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, speaking at a U.N. briefing in New York Thursday.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is a highly technical report that details levels of food insecurity in countries like Sudan. The latest IPC report covers June through September and says 15.9 million people have been classified as under stress.

“Food insecurity is especially concerning in some states such as North Kordofan, where the number of people facing severe food insecurity has increased by 335 percent,” said Dujarric.

The U.N., and its humanitarian partners have provided food assistance to an estimated 2.3 million people in the first quarter of 2020, but Dujarric said “more has to be done and more funding is urgently needed.”

The current food crisis in Sudan is caused by protracted displacement, economic decline and inflation, and soaring food price hikes exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, said the report.

Khartoum alone is estimated to have 1.4 million people who are severely food insecure according to Arshad Malik, Save the Children Sudan Country Director in Sudan.

Malik told South Sudan in Focus that during the fasting month of Ramadan two months ago, many families could not find food to eat at the end of the day.

“We heard from families that some of the families actually used water to break the fast because they had nothing to eat. In that economic situation, families are forced to get their children married earlier, especially girls are more vulnerable, and then otherwise children are more vulnerable to child labor, sexual abuse, physical abuse,” said Malik.

Aside from children, 1.3 million internally displaced persons are affected by food insecurity especially in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states according to Malik.

“They are already deprived of basic services. They had less access to health, to food, to education and with this complicated situation where the government is facing a big economic downfall because of a lack of support from the international community, they are even more vulnerable,” Malik told VOA.

Sudan’s annual inflation rate surged to 136 percent in June, compared to 114 percent in May, according to Sudan’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

The latest IPC report on South Sudan found the country was also facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity. In May, the IPC report said 6.5 million people, or just over half of the country’s population, faced severe acute food insecurity.

While the IPC report said famine had been contained since it was declared in some areas of Unity state in February 2017, it warned the situation remains critical and the risk of famine persists, especially in isolated areas where conflict can quickly increase.

Some 1.7 million South Sudanese were estimated to be in the emergency level (IPC Phase 4) of food insecurity in May.

Food shortages, climate shocks, a deepening economic crisis, insecurity, and insufficient agricultural production kept levels of hunger and acute malnutrition alarmingly high according to the report.

Carol Van Dam Falk contributed to this report.