The United Nations (UN) has warned the number of people facing acute hunger in Sudan could double by September as food prices soar due to poor harvests, economic crisis, internal conflicts, and Russia’s operation in Ukraine.
The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization said in a joint report that more than 18 million people could face extreme hunger over the coming months, up from about 9 million currently in need of aid.
“The combined effects of conflict, economic crisis and poor harvests are significantly affecting people’s access to food and will likely double the number of people facing acute hunger in Sudan to more than 18 million by September,” the two UN food agencies said.
“There are already worrying signs that access, affordability and the availability of food is shrinking for most people in Sudan, which is pushing more people deeper into poverty and hunger,” said Eddie Rowe, the WFP’s country director in Sudan.
In recent months, there has been a surge in the number of people displaced due to conflict in parts of Darfur and the Kordofan region. The circumstances have eroded livelihoods, damaged farms, and triggered widespread unemployment.
The depreciation of the Sudanese Pound (SDG) in addition to rising food and transportation costs are making it harder for families to put food on the table, the report said.
A UN assessment published earlier this week indicated that harvests from the March cereal production are expected to be more than a third lower than the same period last year. Sorghum harvests are expected to be down by 32%, while millet production is estimated to be less than half yielded in 2020.
Food prices have been steadily rising over the past few months. A loaf of bread has increased to 50 SDG, up from 30 last week. A 50-kilogram sack of sugar has risen from 18,000 to 30,000 SDG in the past 10 days.
“Rising food prices and scarcity of essential agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and seeds mean that farmers have no other option than to abandon food production if they do not receive immediate support. This will likely have grave consequences not only for their food security but also on food availability in Sudan and may ultimately lead to more conflict and displacement,” said Babagana Ahmadu, a FAO representative in Sudan.
The situation looks grim for millions as the conflict in Ukraine is causing further spikes in food costs. Sudan is dependent on wheat imports from the Black Sea region. About 50% of its wheat came from Russia last year. Any disruption to the flow will increase prices, which have already risen by 180% to $550 a tonne since the first quarter of 2021.
Sudan has been in turmoil since October 25, 2021, when the military dismissed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s transitional government and declared a state of emergency.
The coup, led by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, sparked almost daily street protests in the capital Khartoum and other major cities. Now the protesters are calling for the restoration of a democratic transition and for the military to quit politics altogether.
The rallies have met with violence by security forces.
The UN and certain Western governments have pressured the military to end the crackdown and restore a civilian-led government to complete the country’s transition.
The African country, home to 45 million people, is also dealing with a severe economic crisis and an inflation reaching 400 percent.