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Woman in refugee camp in Sudan

Major hunger crisis due to war in Sudan

The war that has been raging in Sudan for a year is causing a huge hunger crisis. More than 25 million people in Sudan and neighbouring countries have very little food available. More and more people in the region are reaching emergency levels of hunger.

Hunger crisis due to war

Sudan region threatened by famine

“The war in Sudan threatens to become the world's worst hunger crisis,” Cindy McCain, director of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), warned last month. “Unless the fighting stops now. Millions of lives and the peace and stability of an entire region are at stake.”

Twenty years ago, the Sudanese region of Darfur was experiencing the world's worst hunger crisis, she recalled. “The world took action to respond. But today, the people of Sudan seem to be forgotten.”

According to the UN, more than 25 million are trapped in a cycle of ever-deteriorating food availability due to the war in Sudan. Some of them have nowhere to go because of the violence in the country.

South Sudan

Many Sudanese flee to neighbouring countries such as South Sudan. Also, many people who once fled to Sudan from South Sudan are now returning. There is already little food available there, partly due to enormous drought in one part of the country and floods in other parts.

The enormous influx of refugees due to the war in Sudan means that there is even less food for many people. Families arrive hungry in overcrowded refugee camps, where they only become hungrier. One in every five children in these camps is malnourished, the WFP says.

Hunger in South-Sudan photo Ruben Timman

ZOA's emergency aid coordinator Kees-Jan Hooglander recently visited South Sudan and was shocked by what he saw. “People told me that they haven't eaten in three days. They drink a cup of tea in the morning and have to make do with that all day.”

Five levels of hunger

According to the WFP, many people in Sudan and neighbouring countries may soon face emergency levels of hunger. The WFP uses five ascending scales to indicate when a situation is so alarming that immediate action is required.

Households are classified in phase 1 when they are still able to meet their basic needs. In phase 2, households can only buy the most essential food. From phase 3 onwards, there are gaps in their food consumption, resulting in high or more than usual malnutrition.

Vluchtenlingenkamp in Zuid-Sudan, foto Ruben Timman

In phase 4, households suffer from a severe lack of food, resulting in acute malnutrition and death. Finally, households in phase 5 have an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs. Without intervention, famine, poverty, extremely critical malnutrition and death are inevitable.

If the fighting in Sudan does not stop soon, the WFP expects that many people will reach this final stage and therefore die of hunger.

(Photo': Lieuwe Siebe de Jong, Ruben Timman)

Read more about ZOA's work in Sudan