Sudan: A Dire Humanitarian Crisis

Op-Ed by Emily Thompson

Sudan is one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent memory.

Back in March, humanitarian organizations sounded the alarm over the crisis in Sudan.

Speaking at a briefing to the security council on the humanitarian situation in Sudan, Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations and Advocacy at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) warned of a “fast-reaching and fast-deteriorating situation of food insecurity” in Sudan following 11 months of conflict.

“It is truly the stuff of nightmares,” said Wosronu. “In Khartoum, Darfur, and Kordofan — which are home to 90% of people facing emergency levels of acute food insecurity — there has been no respite from the fierce fighting for 340 days.”

“Now, as the conflict rages on, Sudan is on course to become the world’s worst hunger crisis. Already, 18 million people — more than one third of the country’s population — are facing acute food insecurity.”

As the Council on Foreign Relations noted in June, Sudan has been “engulfed in civil war since fighting erupted on April 15, 2023, between the nation’s military, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and a paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The violence shattered Sudan’s fragile peace and worsened an already precarious humanitarian situation, driving the spread of mass-starvation conditions. Meanwhile, neighboring countries have taken in more than one million refugees, risking broader destabilization across the Horn of Africa and Sahel regions.”

In June, Wosornu again addressed the Security Council and explained that nothing has changed since her earlier appearance and the crisis has only worsened.

“In less than four months, this is the sixth time we have briefed this Council on the humanitarian emergency in Sudan,” she said. “The 12th time since the conflict broke out in April 2023.”

“Each time, we have warned about the relentless deterioration of conditions for people in most parts of the country,” she continued. “Today, I regret to inform you that Sudan continues to spiral into chaos.”

She highlighted four points: the horrific toll of the conflict on civilians in El Fasher and other conflict hotspots across the country; the worsening humanitarian crisis; the current status of humanitarian access and funding for the aid operation; and lastly the desperate need to stop the fighting.

Wosronu went on to explain how the situation in Sudan has deteriorated significantly, with grave violations against children surging by a staggering 480%. The number of reported violations has escalated from approximately 300 in 2022 to over 1,700 in 2023.

Humanitarian workers are not exempt from the violence. In the past six weeks alone, six Sudanese aid workers have been killed, raising the total number of aid worker fatalities to 24 since the onset of the conflict.

These alarming trends must be halted.

International humanitarian law mandates that all parties involved in hostilities take every feasible precaution to protect civilians. This includes strict prohibitions against sexual violence and any form of inhuman treatment.

These protections are non-negotiable.

Furthermore, those who commit war crimes must be held accountable.

The conflict is exacerbating humanitarian needs across Sudan. Famine is now imminent, with almost 5 million people facing emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC level 4). The majority, nine out of ten, reside in conflict-affected regions such as Darfur, Kordofan, Aj Jazirah, and Khartoum states.

Over 2 million individuals in 41 critical hunger hotspots are at high risk of descending into catastrophic hunger in the coming weeks.

Women are reporting heart-wrenching scenarios of watching their children starve due to a lack of food.

Basic services, including healthcare, water, and sanitation systems, are collapsing in areas affected by the conflict. Pregnant women are particularly at risk of acute malnutrition. UN Women reports that without access to food and healthcare, 7,000 new mothers could die in the next few months.

Maternal mortality is rising across Sudan due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

The urgency of the situation is underscored by the need for immediate agricultural support. Farmers must receive certified seeds for the planting season, or the food security crisis will worsen.

What needs to happen is that the international community must act swiftly and decisively to address these dire humanitarian needs and hold perpetrators of violations accountable.

Image: ITSS

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