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UN agencies: Food crisis looming for 18 million in Sudan

March 23 - 2022 KHARTOUM
Cover of The Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) report by FAO and WFP
Cover of The Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) report by FAO and WFP

A worsening food crisis is looming in Sudan amid the economic downturn, displacement, and ruined crops, a new report published this week by UN agencies warns.

In a joint press statement today, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) caution that the combined effects of conflict, economic crisis, and poor harvests are significantly affecting people’s access to food and will likely double the number of people facing acute hunger in Sudan to more than 18 million people by September 2022.

“There are already worrying signs that access, affordability, and the availability of food is shrinking for most people in Sudan, which is pushing more people deeper into poverty and hunger,” said Eddie Rowe, WFP Representative and Country Director in Sudan.

In recent months, there has been a surge in the numbers of people displaced due to conflict in parts of Darfur and the Kordofan region. This insecurity has eroded livelihoods, damaged farms, and triggered widespread unemployment.

The depreciation of the Sudanese Pound (SDG) in addition to rising food and transportation costs are making it harder for families to put food on the table. A lack of access to hard currencies is likely to result in the SDG further depreciating.

The Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) report by FAO and WFP indicates that the domestic cereal production from the 2021/22 agricultural season is expected to produce 5.1 million metric tons. This will only cover the needs of less than two thirds of the population, leaving many reliant on humanitarian food assistance and dependant on imports of essential grains at prices beyond the reach of most people.

“Rising food prices and scarcity of essential agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and seeds mean that farmers have no other option than to abandon food production if they do not receive immediate support. This will likely have grave consequences not only for their food security but also on food availability in Sudan and may ultimately lead to more conflict and displacement,” said Babagana Ahmadu, FAO Representative in Sudan.

The situation looks grim for millions as the conflict in Ukraine is causing further spikes in food costs, as Sudan is dependent on wheat imports from the Black Sea region. Interruption to the flow of grain into Sudan will increase prices and make it more difficult to import wheat. Currently, local prices of wheat are at over $550 per ton – an increase of 180 percent compared to the same period in 2021.

“The ripple effects created by the bullets and bombs landing in Ukraine will be felt far and wide, including here in Sudan, as families are set to suffer even further with basic meals becoming a luxury for millions. But at the same time, WFP finds itself in the awful position of not having enough resources to meet the ever growing needs,” added Rowe.

In 2021, WFP was a lifeline for nearly nine  million people in Sudan who suffered through the turmoil of political unrest and economic instability. On top of life-saving food assistance, cash and livelihood support for families helped them not only survive, but also thrive. But this year, WFP food stocks in Sudan are running dangerously low and without new funding they will begin running out by May. A funding crunch, led by a $270 million shortfall, has already forced WFP to prioritize the most vulnerable of the vulnerable people, meaning others in need go without, and further cuts may be necessary if WFP does not receive new funds immediately.

In 2021, FAO reached nearly 1.5 million vulnerable people in Sudan with life-saving livelihoods assistance to enhance the resilience of their agriculture-based livelihoods. This year, FAO requires $51.4 million to support two million vulnerable farming and pastoral households to produce their own food, keep their livestock alive and productive, and strengthen their resilience. Urgent support is required to provide essential agriculture inputs to vulnerable farming households before the main agriculture season starts in June, so that they can produce enough food and become self-reliant.

WFP resumes operations

Earlier this month, the UN WFP partially resumed its operations in North Darfur after more than a month’s suspension following a series of attacks and looting of all three of its warehouses in El Fasher in December 2021.

The WFP suspended operations across North Darfur in Sudan in late December 2021, following the looting of three of its warehouses in the state capital El Fasher. WFP Executive Director David Beasley expressed “outrage at the senseless attacks”. The WFP said at the time that the suspension could affect close to two million people in the area in 2022.

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