Sudan, a nation plagued by ongoing conflict and political turmoil, is now grappling with a dire famine crisis that threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands of its citizens. As the war rages on, the specter of famine looms large, casting a dark shadow over the future of this already beleaguered nation.
In September, Soulayma Abdel Hay, a compassionate and determined individual, took it upon herself to alleviate the suffering of her fellow Sudanese. She established a soup kitchen in the capital city of Khartoum, relying on donations from overseas to purchase essential food items such as rice, beans, and eggs. Her aim was simple yet noble – to provide a hot meal to hungry families three times a week.
Khartoum, once a vibrant and bustling city, now bears witness to the devastating aftermath of the conflict. The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have assumed control, and their presence has brought about a wave of looting and pillaging. Hundreds of thousands of people have been robbed of their property and savings, plunging them further into poverty and despair. In this desolate landscape, Abdel Hay’s soup kitchen has become a lifeline for many, offering a glimmer of hope amidst the darkness.
Tragically, Sudan’s civil war shows no signs of abating, resulting in a rapidly deteriorating food crisis. Aid groups and experts on famine have raised alarming concerns, painting a grim picture of the situation unfolding within the country. The United Nations estimates that a staggering 18 million people are now facing emergency levels of hunger, effectively doubling the figures from the previous year. This exponential increase is a chilling testament to the gravity of the situation and the urgent need for assistance.
Adding to the country’s woes is a recent internet blackout that indiscriminately swept across Sudan. This blackout has further exacerbated the crisis, as it disrupted crucial money transfers that the diaspora relies upon to support their loved ones back home. The impact of this blackout cannot be overstated, as it has effectively severed a lifeline that many depend upon for their very survival.
The situation in Sudan is reaching critical levels as a famine appears to be imminent. In order to prevent a catastrophe and save countless lives, aid agencies are urgently appealing for $4.1 billion in funding. The severity of the situation is emphasized by experts such as Alex de Waal, who warns that even if hunger levels remain constant, hundreds of thousands of children will still lose their lives by next year.
Malnourishment has become a widespread issue in Darfur, with Doctors without Borders reporting that millions of people are already affected. In the Zamzam displacement camp in North Darfur, hunger is claiming the lives of two children every hour, as declared by the aid group on February 5th. This camp was established during the first major civil war in 2003, when government-supported militias fought against indigenous sedentary groups. Prior to the current conflict, Zamzam was home to approximately 400,000 individuals.
Emmanuel Berbain, a team leader from Doctors without Borders, noted that the situation has worsened as many United Nations agencies and global relief organizations have halted their operations in the region due to lawlessness and insecurity. In light of this, thousands of people fleeing violence in South and Central Darfur have sought refuge in Zamzam.
Additionally, the displacement and damage caused by the war has prevented many from harvesting their crops, further exacerbating the hunger crisis. Alongside malnourishment, water-borne diseases are also contributing to extreme levels of deprivation, particularly among children. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs declared a cholera outbreak in the state of Gadarif in December. Berbain emphasizes that children suffering from prolonged diarrhea caused by cholera face extreme malnutrition, highlighting the significance of access to clean water and proper sanitation in addressing the crisis.
The Clingendael Institute, a think tank based in the Netherlands, has recently published a policy brief highlighting the worsening food crisis in Sudan. Time is running out for the country to address this issue, which has been greatly exacerbated by the ongoing conflict. The report reveals that the war has had a severe impact on the availability of food and the ability of people to afford it.
One particularly disturbing aspect highlighted in the report is the ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by the RSF and its allied militias in West Darfur. This campaign, which may possibly amount to genocide, has forcibly displaced “non-Arab” communities from their lands. This displacement has further contributed to the food crisis in the region.
Adding to the dire situation, the RSF has been systematically looting aid warehouses, banks, cars, homes, and even jewelry throughout the country. This blatant theft of resources, meant for the most vulnerable populations, only exacerbates the food crisis. Furthermore, the Sudanese army is also restricting aid to regions under RSF control and cracking down on grassroots initiatives aimed at providing food to their communities.
The Clingendael report suggests that the actions of the army and RSF may amount to perpetrating starvation crimes. Both generals involved in the conflict show a reckless disregard for the humanitarian consequences of their intensifying war efforts. The situation in Sudan is a deliberate crisis, with the military and RSF exacerbating the already dire food shortage and actively impeding efforts to address it. Urgent action is needed to mitigate the suffering of the Sudanese people and prevent further humanitarian disasters.