Since April 2023, Sudan has been embroiled in a civil conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces — the national military — and the Rapid Support Forces, an independent paramilitary force. Led by “Hemedti” Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo, RSF is an outgrowth of Janjaweed military groups formerly employed by the government throughout the 2000s and 2010s. These forces have been part of multiple coups over the last five years, perpetrating potential crimes against humanity in the Darfur region.
A humanitarian crisis has erupted in Sudan as a result of widespread destruction and fighting. This is exacerbating the already-present effects of widespread poverty and almost 20% unemployment in 2022. A June 2023 report from USAID has identified and mapped multiple poverty-related crisis categories that must be addressed by a humanitarian response in Sudan. Notably, these are water scarcity and agricultural-nutritional crises. USAID is partnering with organizations such as OCHA, UNFPA and the World Food Program (WFP) to provide the Sudanese with desperately needed resources and aid.
Water Scarcity in Sudan
According to USAID, multiple regions in Sudan such as Khartoum, Gedaref, North and South Kordofan and all of the Darfur region are experiencing water scarcity. Water scarcity doesn’t only affect access to drinking water, but also diminishes a population’s ability to implement adequate sanitation and hygiene practices, putting the public health of thousands of impoverished Sudanese at risk. Sudan also ranks among the most climate-insecure countries in the world, at risk of desertification and extreme heat. Consequently, the Norwegian Refugee Council has emphasized that heat strokes and other sun-related health issues are rampant in areas bordering South Sudan.
To combat this, USAID is providing humanitarian efforts in Sudan. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees has helped almost 700,000 Sudanese refugees since 2022 to obtain drinking water, and the International Medical Corps has outfitted hundreds of families in Sudan with sanitation kits this year. The International Organization for Migration is contributing $25 million to USAID and the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance to implement WASH projects in Sudan. Moreover, the WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) and shelter projects receive further support with an additional three million dollars from the UN High Council for Refugees. The U.N. Population Fund also contributes another three million dollars to USAID’s response plan for public health implementations in Blue and White Nile, Gedaref, Khartoum, and areas of Darfur and Kordofan.
War and climate change have strained farmers and livestock herders across Darfur and Northern Sudan, as well as Kassala, Gedaref and Sennar in the east. Sudan’s livestock industry brought in $143 million in export revenue in 2022, and the World Bank estimates almost half the Sudanese population work in the agricultural industry. This highlights the crucial role of humanitarian response in supporting agribusiness and safeguarding a significant portion of the population from factors leading to poverty, such as unemployment and malnutrition. OCHA’s 2023 response plan outlines the need for $500 million in food security and livelihood aid to assist 75% of the nearly 20 million affected Sudanese. The plan is to source the funding from the Sudan Humanitarian Fund and donations to partner organizations like UNICEF.
Food and Nutrition: Crisis & Solutions
Food insecurity is a pressing issue in multiple regions of Sudan, particularly in South and West Kordofan, Kassala in the east, and across central-northwest Darfur. The problem has been ongoing since 2022 but has worsened due to the conflict. According to an IPC report, out of the total Sudanese population of more than 46 million, only 18.6 million people were food secure in 2022. Without international intervention, expectations lean toward a further deterioration of the situation in 2023.
Despite the ongoing dangers, the World Food Program responded in May 2023 by resuming nutritional assistance programs in the country, while contributing more than $140 million in cash transfers. As a result, WFP and BHA have been able to provide more than 800,000 people with thousands of metric tonnes of sorghum grain since mid-May 2023. On top of this, UNICEF has provided citizens in Wad Madani and Khartoum with critical aid such as Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Food and truckloads of health and nutrition supplies.
USAID and its partners plan to work diligently to expand the humanitarian response in Sudan throughout 2023 and onward.
– Finneas Sensiba