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WFP: Sudan Conflict Risks Plunging Millions into Hunger

FILE - Sudanese refugees who have fled the violence in their country queue to receive food supplements from World Food Programme (WFP) near the border between Sudan and Chad in Adre, Chad April 26, 2023.

GENEVA — Citing security concerns, the World Food Program (WFP) temporarily suspend its humanitarian operations in Sudan, which already had food shortages before the current conflict erupted two weeks ago. Now the United Nations' hunger program says the conflict risks plunging millions into starvation.

WFP says around 15 million people – a third of Sudan’s population – already face hunger, and with evacuations underway, millions more are dealing with food shortages inside the country and in neighboring South Sudan, where thousands of South Sudanese refugees are fleeing for safety.

Fighting in Sudan has continued for two weeks as the rival Sudan Armed Forces and the paramilitary, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), are yet to agree to a permanent truce. The warring parties agreed to extend a cease-fire that ended Thursday for another 72-hours.

Brenda Kariuki, WFP's senior regional communication officer in eastern Africa, said the organization had planned to assist 7.6 million Sudanese this year. But she said those plans have been shelved for now because of concerns for the safety of WFP staff.

"As the fighting rages on in parts of Sudan, our humanitarian operations in the country are virtually impossible, at a time when a third of the country is in desperate need of assistance. We are hearing of acute shortages of food, water, fuel, medicines and access to health care," she said. "With this crisis, we are afraid that millions more will plunge into hunger."

The crisis has triggered a huge displacement crisis, with thousands of Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees fleeing to neighboring countries seeking safety and protection.

The United Nations reports some 20,000 people have fled to Chad and at least 4,000 South Sudanese refugees have been returning to their homes of origin in five northern states bordering Sudan.

Kariuki said these numbers are expected to increase as the crisis escalates. She notes WFP will be unable to provide aid to needy people inside Sudan as long as the current situation of insecurity persists.

"WFP's staff, offices, and vehicles, and equipment, and food stocks have come in the direct line of fire and looting of our warehouses continues. To date, we know up to 4,000 metric tons of food meant for vulnerable people has been looted from our warehouses, and at least 10 vehicles and six trucks which transport food have been stolen."

Kariuki called this unacceptable as it takes away humanitarian aid meant for the most vulnerable Sudanese and refugees who desperately need this lifesaving food.

Among those most in need of humanitarian aid, she said, are the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are sheltering in Sudan, school children who will miss out on their daily meal, malnourished infants, and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.