The World Food Programme’s (WFP) latest food security analysis of the country shows the worst hunger level ever recorded during the harvest season (October through February), which is typically a period when more food is available.
If there is no significant increase in assistance by the time the lean season arrives next May, conflict hotspots such as the capital Khartoum, the Darfurs, and the Kordofans could fall into “catastrophic hunger”, also known as Phase 5 on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), the agency added – the most extreme stage.
Families ‘out of options’
“Even now [families] are struggling to put food on the table,” Leni Kinzli, WFP Spokesperson in Sudan, told reporters in New York, via video link from Nairobi.
“But when the lean season hits in May and food becomes less, they will be out of options, unless WFP can get through and regularly deliver assistance,” she said.
The UN agency issued an urgent call for the warring parties to agree a humanitarian pause and help provide unfettered access to save the lives of people trapped by active fighting.
Deepening hunger crisis
Sudan, once described as East Africa’s potential breadbasket, is staring at a deepening hunger crisis as the conflict approaches its eighth month.
In April, clashes erupted between the rival Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) which answers to the military government and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), with each group’s leader vying for overall control.
In addition to the impact of food security, the violence also left the country’s health system in tatters and displaced millions within the country and sent refugees fleeing its borders.
Nearly 18 million people across Sudan are facing acute hunger (IPC3+) – more than double the number suffering the same time a year ago.
This figure is also higher than the initial projection of 15 million living with acute hunger made in the previous assessment in August.
Currently, close to five million people are in emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC4) with over three-quarters confined to areas where humanitarian access has been intermittent and, in some cases, impossible due to ongoing fighting.
“The speed at which hunger has risen over the past year is alarming. More and more people are struggling to eat a basic meal a day, and unless things change there is a very real risk they won’t even be able to do that,” said Eddie Rowe, WFP Country Director in Sudan.