25 April 2024

Millions more face starvation as battle rages in Sudan

Aid groups say more Australian government funds need to be committed to supporting peace and development in Sudan. Picture: iStock

Jenan Taylor

10 May 2023

Aid officials say deadly conflict in Sudan is putting more pressure on food relief efforts in the region amid one of the worst hunger crises on record.

United Nations World Food programme representatives report that up to 19 million people in Sudan, four million more than last year, could struggle to find a meal a day.

Fighting in the nation erupted in mid-April after a power struggle between two rival military groups turned violent, The Guardian reported.

The UN Refugee Agency estimated that 100,000 people had fled to neighbouring countries and that that number could surge to 800,000 in coming weeks, while hundreds of thousands more would be internally displaced.

Read more: Famine, oppression loom large as international community focuses elsewhere

Anglican Overseas Aid said that in South Sudan where its partners operated, escalating numbers of displaced people had crossed the border adding to the existing stresses being experienced in refugee camps.

Disaster Response and Resilience Coordinator Tim Hartley said food insecurity in the Horn of Africa was already heightened because flooding in South Sudan, and the effects of prolonged drought in other parts of the region, had destroyed crops.

Mr Hartley said that AOA through its partners delivered cash and voucher assistance to the neediest in the communities.

He said even though the assistance amounted to US$60 per household, it usually had direct impact in that people were able to have a say in how they spent it.

The greater influx of people limited those beneficial effects, because it sent prices up while cash amounts remained at $US60, Mr Hartley said.

But he said the conflict was also causing a lack of security that had spread to Sudan’s neighbours.

Read more: Climate change to blame for widespread hunger and increased violence in Africa

It made it difficult for AOA’s partners to deliver aid and to even travel to target communities, because aside from access considerations, the costs of security contractors also had to be factored in, Mr Hartley said.

UNWFP said in early May that the security situation in Sudan was highly precarious and that the programme had to strongly weigh up the security and the safety of its workers, among other considerations, before it could decide where to distribute food.

Last week the Australian federal government announced $6 million in relief for the area, with $1 million pledged to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the remainder to international partners.

But humanitarian and aid authorities say more is needed and that the government should commit $25 million to support peace and development in Sudan.

The Australian Council for International Development said boosting the funding would bring it closer to the assistance package provided to Ukraine.

To donate to organisations working to relieve the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa, please see here.

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