FEWS NET Food Security Alert warns of ‘Famine (IPC Phase 5)’ in Sudan

Large pots with lentils and fava beans ready to be distributed to the hungry in Khartoum North, May 2 (Photo: Hadhreen organisation via FB)

In its latest Sudan Food Security Alert, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) warns that parts of the country are facing a risk of Famine as the ongoing war between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) threatens access to food for millions.

More than 12 months of warfare between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) is driving a devastating deterioration in acute food insecurity across Sudan, and parts of the country face a risk of Famine (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Phase 5), the Washington-based FEWS NET said in its Sudan Food Security Alert on Friday.

“Millions of people are experiencing severe hunger, and available evidence suggests high and rising levels of acute malnutrition and hunger-related mortality among displaced populations,” the alert states.

In parts of Khartoum, West Darfur, and other areas of Darfur with high concentrations of displaced people –such as around El Fasher in North Darfur– “there is a credible risk that parties to the conflict may take future actions that substantially worsen or fully cut off households’ ability to access food and income for an extended time”.

According to the report, these actions “could occur either through deliberate, prolonged isolation of households – a tactic armed actors have already used to a lesser degree in a periodic, temporary manner – or as a byproduct of further escalation of conflict, such that populations are isolated from access to food assistance, community support, and remittances, and informal cross-border trade flows are blocked.

‘It is imperative that government actors take further steps to operationalize and safeguard humanitarian corridors’ – FEWS NET

If such a scenario were to materialise, then levels of hunger, acute malnutrition, and hunger-related mortality would likely increase even further than currently projected and breach the Famine (IPC Phase 5) thresholds, FEWS NET warns.

“National food availability is already tightening rapidly due to the impact of the conflict on both domestic production and imports. The national cereal availability gap is anticipated to be over 2 million metric tons, based on estimates of domestic production, and anticipated formal wheat imports through Port Sudan.

“While informal cross-border trade is expected to mitigate the cereal gap to some extent, formal import flows remain constrained by the official closure of the Sudan-Chad border and the South Sudan government’s placement of restrictions on exports of food and fuel to Sudan. Moreover, conflict is severely impeding domestic trade flows from more productive areas of the southeast to the rest of the country, further diminishing the food supply in already deficit-producing areas of Greater Kordofan and Greater Darfur.”

The alert also points to the soaring food prices and steep reductions – if not outright loss – of both rural and urban household income sources, while “humanitarian access remains severely limited by active conflict, generalized insecurity, insufficient humanitarian corridors, bureaucratic and logistical hurdles, and direct obstruction by both the SAF and RSF.

In Zamzam camp in North Darfur, ‘nearly 25 percent of children under five were acutely
malnourished in February’

“It is imperative that government actors take further steps to operationalize and safeguard humanitarian corridors, which are essential to facilitating the necessary scale-up in food assistance and to reach the populations most in need,” FEWS NET states.

Acute malnutrition has already sharply increased. In the very large Zamzam camp, south of El Fasher in North Darfur, nearly 25 per cent of children under five were acutely malnourished in February.

“In addition to food consumption gaps, the collapse of the health care system, anticipated increase in morbidity in the upcoming rainy season, and unsanitary living conditions for the displaced, are likely to further exacerbate the severity of acute malnutrition over the coming lean season.

“To cope, populations are expected to increasingly resort to consuming wild foods and seeds that would have been used for planting; liquidating their assets (including livestock and productive assets) to purchase food; relying on the sale of natural resources and already thinly stretched family and community support; begging; and undertaking risky migration through conflict zones in search of food and income.”

The report concludes with warning of the “credible risk that armed parties in parts of West Darfur, areas with high concentrations of displaced persons in Greater Darfur, or Khartoum may take action to further worsen or prevent households’ access to already minimal sources of food and income for a sustained time.

“If this scenario were to materialize, then levels of acute malnutrition and hunger-related mortality would likely accelerate even further than currently projected, and Famine (IPC Phase 5) would likely occur.”