AnalysisSudan will be starving soon

Sudan will be starving soon

Koert Lindijer has been a correspondent in Africa for the Dutch newspaper NRC since 1983. He is the author of four books on African affairs.

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Sudan is on the brink of a significant humanitarian crisis comparable to the situations in Gaza and Eastern Congo. With half of the fifty million Sudanese population struggling to survive without assistance, ten million individuals have been displaced from their homes, and one and a half million have sought refuge in neighboring countries. The lack of adequate funding and cooperation from conflicting military groups hinders the delivery of essential aid to those affected. The UN Security Council on Friday the 8th of March called for an immedeate ceasfire in honour of Ramadan.

Early last month, the UN appealed for $4.1 billion, amid warnings from the UN World Food Program that people are dying of hunger in areas cut off by fighting. Only a fraction of the required aid amount has been pledged by donors. “There are hardly any hospitals and clinics still functioning. Within a month, fifty patients suffering from kidney failure died,” says volunteer health worker Omar Ibrahim (29) by telephone.

Ethnic cleansing

The true extent of casualties resulting from the conflict that erupted in April between the Sudanese government army and the paramilitary unit Rapid Support Forces (RSF) remains unknown due to the inaccessibility of the battlefield. Both sides, particularly the RSF, have been implicated in committing heinous acts. They show no mercy towards civilians, engaging in tank battles within residential areas, bombing narrow alleys, perpetrating acts of rape, seizing residents’ homes, looting banks and businesses, demolishing bridges, schools, and hospitals, and carrying out mass killings based on ethnicity. This conflict stands as one of the most devastating wars witnessed in Africa. When accounting for the victims of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the RSF in the Darfur region, the death toll probably reaches tens of thousands.

The logistical challenge of doing something about it is immense. West of the Nile, the vast majority of territory is in the hands of the RSF, east of the government army. But the capital Khartoum and Wad Madani west of the river also fall under RSF control. The government army refuses to allow relief supplies into RSF areas and works against civilian committees that organize soup kitchens. The only route left is via the Chadian capital N’Djamena and Cameroon, a very long distance over difficult terrain. Relief supplies for government areas are relatively easy to transport from the port city of Port Sudan, but the government army has also stolen relief supplies.


“The government in Port Sudan has restricted access for aid organizations in our area, leading to famine in Darfur,” said Ibrahim, who brings medicine from Chad to Furburanga in Darfur. In addition, RSF soldiers at roadblocks demand exorbitant taxes from traders for passage. ”The plight of children suffering from malnutrition is terrible, as is that of people struggling with diabetes, the elderly with high blood pressure and women who need blood transfusions during childbirth.”

In western Darfur, a multitude of crises continues to mount, with hundreds of thousands of individuals enduring life in displaced persons camps for an extended period. In the Zamzam camp, which became home to 300,000 inhabitants following a conflict in 2003, all United Nations (UN) organizations and the accompanying food aid have vanished, leading to a dire situation. Doctors without Borders (MSF) reports that thirteen children succumb to malnutrition each day. Claire Nicolet, who oversees MSF’s emergency response in Sudan, warns that “Those with severe malnutrition who have not yet died are at high risk of dying within three to six weeks if they do not receive treatment”.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN’s humanitarian branch, outlines the catastrophic consequences of the war on Sudan’s economy. This includes the obliteration of industrial capacity, education and healthcare systems, as well as the collapse of vital sectors like trade, finance, and information technology. OCHA further reveals that numerous aid agency offices and warehouses have been looted, primarily by the RSF or affiliated Arab militias.

Abandoned fields

The RSF’s capture of the major town of Wad Madani in El Gezira state in December, east of the Nile, was a huge setback for aid efforts. Not only had hundreds of thousands of displaced people from the capital gathered there, the agricultural region is also the largest supplier of food crops. Since the capture of the RSF, the fields have been deserted.

According to the World Bank, before the war, agriculture generated 35 to 40 percent of the gross national product and employed 70 to 80 percent of the rural workforce. But more than 60 percent of the country’s agricultural land has fallen out of use, according to Sudanese research organization Fikra for Studies and Development.

Sudan has always been a country of traders. According to information from Sudan’s ports, trade decreased by 23 percent last year. Earlier this month, the IMF made the gloomy prediction that the economy will shrink 18 percent this year. Last year a dollar cost 275 Sudanese pounds, now it is 1,200 pounds.

A lifeline for the Sudanese since the outbreak of war has been internet banking. Due to a lack of cash, banks provided digital payment services, but the internet has been malfunctioning for weeks because the RSF has disconnected two of the three providers in Khartoum. The soup kitchens also use the internet to inform hungry Sudanese where they can find something to eat. Now they have to close.

This article fisrt appeared in the Dutch newspaper NRC on 1-3-2024

Koert Lindijer
Koert Lindijer
Koert Lindijer has been a correspondent in Africa for the Dutch newspaper NRC since 1983. He is the author of four books on African affairs.

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