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Over 95 percent of Sudanese cannot afford a meal a day: WFP

Sudan peace talks resume in Jeddah: Saudi statement
Image: Sudan's flag

Ten months into a war that has sent Sudan to the “verge of collapse”, the vast majority of its people are going hungry, the UN’s World Food Programme said Wednesday.

“At this point, less than five percent of Sudanese can afford a square meal a day,” the WFP’s Sudan country director, Eddie Rowe, told reporters in Brussels.

Since last April, Sudan has been gripped by fighting between the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which has killed thousands and created what the United Nations calls “the world’s largest displacement crisis”.

A combined 10.7 million people have been uprooted by the current war and previous conflicts, according to the UN.

Nine million remain displaced within Sudan, where Rowe said a “lethal cocktail of continued conflict, stalled harvests and rampant and consistent displacement risks plunging millions more into a catastrophic humanitarian disaster.”

Across Sudan, which the WFP says was already facing one of the world’s worst food crises before the war, 18 million people are facing acute food insecurity.

Of those, Rowe said “close to five million are on the precipice of catastrophe” — enduring one of the worst emergency classifications the WFP uses, second only to famine.

Aid groups have for months warned that as a result of hampered humanitarian access and severe underfunding, the spectre of famine looms over Sudan.

But the same obstacles to aid delivery inhibit the ability to determine the extent of the catastrophe.

According to Michael Dunford, WFP’s Eastern Africa regional director, there is a major issue in “the availability of the data to confirm one way or the other whether or not the thresholds (required to declare a famine) have been met”.

With WFP only able to reach 10 percent of those in need, “there are large tracts of the country that we simply cannot access,” Dunford told reporters.

Sudan’s most fertile regions could have helped ward off famine, if not for the fighting encroaching into the country’s agricultural heartlands.

In December, a paramilitary advance brought the war to Al-Jazira state, just south of the capital Khartoum, which was set to produce the bulk of Sudan’s grains for the season.

“Thousands of smallholder farms and even the large-scale schemes have been deserted, because people are on the move running away from the conflict,” Rowe said.

“As we approach the hunger season,” he said, the crisis is only set to “further deteriorate”.

The lean season, roughly from April to July, usually sees food prices run high as stocks dwindle ahead of the next harvest.

With markets across the country already empty and an ongoing communications blackout hampering all transactions, Dunford says the future is bleak.

“This is a country on the verge of collapse,” he said.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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