“As we speak today, 650,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. If they are not treated, half of them will die,” said UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative in Sudan, Mandeep O Brien, underscoring what experienced aid workers have described as an unprecedented crisis.
Worsening recent troubles in Sudan have their roots in a military coup in October 2021 that led to a freeze on international aid funding and has forced UN aid teams to halve rations in some cases.
The ongoing political “turmoil” has also weakened government support structures for families struggling with dramatic increases in food prices and inter-tribal violence, said Eddie Rowe, country director of the UN World Food Program (WFP) in Sudan.
“Right now, WFP has predicted that around 15 million people would go hungry every day since the start of the hunger season and we are now conducting an assessment because that is the case Our indicators predicted that number could rise to 18 million by the end of this month,” he said.
“We are is still grappling with an increased incidence of inter-tribal conflict and violence, and this has indeed spread now not only to Darfur but also to other parts of the country… The Ukraine war also had significant repercussions. All of this, in the context of a politically unstable country, has led to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis this year.”
Solidarity with Sudan
In an appeal to the international community to “show solidarity with the children of Sudan,” UNICEF’s Mandeep O Brien noted that the crisis reflects much more than a lack of food, as basic health services, clean water, sanitation and education is severely lacking.
“Unfortunately, routine vaccination in Sudan is declining. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of children who have not received a single dose of life-saving vaccines has doubled,‘ she told journalists in Geneva.
Exploding cost of living
The representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sudan, Axel Bisschop, echoed these concerns and warned that the cost of living for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sudan had “skyrocketed”.
This is linked to the “ripple effects of the war in Ukraine, ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme weather conditions resulting from the climate crisis,” he said.
“Sudan is today houses around 1.1 million refugees‘ the UNHCR official explained, noting that renewed inter-communal clashes this year and the burning and looting of villages, markets, homes and livestock in Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile states had displaced over 177,000 people.
“We also have around 3.7 million internally displaced persons. And as my colleagues have pointed out here, the humanitarian crisis, which is actually leading to a food crisis, is having an impact on marginalized communities, including refugees and internally displaced persons.”
The level of humanitarian funding for all three organizations falls far short of what would be required for effective prevention support. The fear is that unless commitments are made soon, the cost of responding to a far larger emergency will be far greater.
To illustrate the extent of the funding gap, UNHCR had received up to 13 September only a third of the $348.9 million needed this year to deliver an effective response and provide life-saving assistance and protection amid the growing needs.