people sitting in and on top of an old truck

Newly arrived refugees from Darfur in Sudan, which faces a humanitarian crisis amid its civil war, sit on a vehicle before being taken to a new camp on April 23, 2024 in Adre, Chad.

(Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

UN Agencies Call for International Aid as War-Torn Sudan Faces Famine Threat

"Extreme hunger is unfolding" as a civil war enters its second year and funding is slow to arrive, the agencies warned.

A group of United Nations agencies and humanitarian groups sounded the alarm Friday that 18 million Sudanese are acutely hungry as a civil war that began in April 2023 continues to ravage the country.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), a group of 12 U.N. agencies and 7 humanitarian organizations, issued a statement on the staggering scale of hunger and insecurity in Sudan, including in the Darfur region in the country's west. They called for an immediate influx of international funding—billions of dollars of which has already been pledged, but not yet delivered—so that food could be planted before the rainy season.

"Extreme hunger is unfolding, and the outlook for food production in 2024 is bleak," according to the statement. "We have a rapidly shrinking window to get seeds to farmers before the main planting season ends and the rainy season begins."

At a conference in Paris last month, following an earlier cry for action, countries pledged a total of $2.7 billion in aid for Sudan, but so far only 16% of that money has been disbursed, according to IASC. The food shortage has been worsened by drought and flooding, likely exacerbated by climate change.

A major obstacle to aid delivery is not just lack of funds but also the civil war, which has seriously impeded the IASC organizations aid efforts.

"If they continue to be prevented from providing aid in Sudan rapidly and at scale, a famine will likely take hold in large parts of the country," Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the U.N. Office for Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), one of the IASC agencies, said Friday in Geneva, according toVoice of America. "More people will flee to neighboring countries. Children will succumb to disease and malnutrition, and women and girls will face even greater suffering and dangers."

Sudan has one of the highest numbers of internally displaced people of any country in the world, roughly 10 million, and the number continues to climb as the war goes on. Al-Fashir, the capital of North Darfur, has been a somewhat safe zone that many displaced people have moved to, but as the two sides in the conflict jockey for position there, that status is in jeopardy. A fragile truce in the city fell apart on May 10 and a battle there is already underway, according toThe Economist. IASC warned that it may only get worse.

"More than 800,000 civilians [in Al-Fashir] are bracing for an imminent large-scale attack, which would unleash catastrophic humanitarian consequences both in the city and across Darfur," the authors of the statement said, warning that the effects of the war on everyday people are dire. "Horrific attacks against civilians—including sexual violence—as well as hospitals and schools are multiplying," they also said.

Clementine Nkweta-Salami, U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, also warned in a statement Thursday that "the noose of war is tightening its stranglehold on a civilian population that is under attack from all sides."

The civil war pits the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group. The two sides shared power over the country for two years before the war began. Their rivalry has been fueled in part by outside forces: both SAF and RSF have international backers, making this a regional proxy war, according toForeign Policy.

In the 2000s, Darfur became a cause célèbre, but the current crisis has been overlooked, especially given international attention on Gaza and Ukraine, Foreign Policy reported.

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