Sudan faces worsening hunger and malnutrition crisis

Food insecure population expected to hit 4 million in coming months

10 April 2014, Rome – Farmers and herders in Sudan need urgent support to help prevent the food security situation in the country from deteriorating further, FAO warned today.

Some 3.3 million people are currently suffering from food insecurity with numbers likely to rise to 4 million in the coming months due to a combination of increased conflict and displacement in Darfur, refugee movement from neighbouring South Sudan, poor harvest and spiralling food prices.

In some areas of Sudan, existing crisis levels of food insecurity are expected to deteriorate to emergency levels in the coming few weeks, bringing an even higher degree of acute malnutrition with devastating consequences for vulnerable groups.

“Sudan is a forgotten crisis that is only getting worse,” said Abdi Adan Jama, FAO Representative in the country. “We urgently need to ensure vulnerable herders and farmers affected by the situation are in a position to regain their livelihoods, feed their families, reduce their dependency on food aid and rebuild their lives.”

United Nations agencies and partners have so far received only 30.2 percent of the $995 million that they requested to carry out urgent humanitarian interventions set out in the Strategic Response Plan for Sudan in 2014.

Multiple causes behind crisis

The current food security situation in Sudan has multiple causes, including a poor 2013-2014 harvest due to late and below-average rains in main cropping areas, with cereal production dropping to 65-70 percent of the last five-year average.

A resurgence of fighting and inter-tribal violence has resulted in people fleeing their homes and missing critical planting and harvesting seasons, particularly in the Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions. Renewed hostility in Darfur has resulted in over 200 000 people being displaced since the beginning of 2014.

Domestic cereal prices have meanwhile been rising steadily since May-June 2013,  and by March 2014 had reached record levels in most markets, significantly reducing the purchasing power of vulnerable families. The price of sorghum, the main staple, was more than 70 percent higher in March 2014 than in March 2013.

Staple food prices are expected to continue to increase rapidly from February to June 2014 by an average of 10-15 percent, FAO said.

An increase in refugee movements as people try to escape the crisis in South Sudan by crossing into border areas of Sudan are meanwhile putting pressure on local resources and risking increased conflict.

This in turn will impact Sudan’s nomadic herding populations, who normally graze millions of cattle in South Sudan during the dry season.

Call for $19 million to support 5.4 million people

“About 80 percent of Sudan’s rural population relies on agriculture for their food and income, and if we do not recognize the magnitude of what is happening and act in time the situation will get much, much worse,” said Jama.

FAO is calling for $19 million for a series of urgent interventions in the country targeting a total of 5.4 million people. So far it has received only $7 million, leaving a funding gap of $12 million.

The Organization plans to provide 900 000 of the most vulnerable households with livelihood-saving support. This includes multipurpose crops which not only respond to the nutritional needs of families but also protect soil, provide fodder for livestock to sustain milk production, and offer good prices on markets.

High quality and early maturing seed will be provided for the two staple crops, sorghum and millet, and FAO will work to diversify the food basket of affected families by promoting legumes, sweet potato, milk production, and vegetables that can be grown in the rainy season, enabling vital access to supplementary income.

The Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster, co-led by FAO, plans to vaccinate 11.7 million heads of livestock and ensure supplementary feeding and improved access to pasture and water, which will secure the survival of these important productive assets.

The $19 million FAO needs for urgent interventions forms part of an appeal for almost $388 million for support to food security and livelihoods throughout 2014 made by the Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster as part of the Strategic Response Plan.

Photo: ©UN Photo/Albert González Farran
Fighting and inter-tribal violence have resulted in people fleeing their homes and missing critical planting and harvesting seasons.