WFO: Sudan's war risks creating 'world's largest hunger crisis'

People board a truck as they leave Khartoum, Sudan, on June 19, 2023.
People board a truck as they leave Khartoum, Sudan, on June 19, 2023. Copyright AP/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright AP/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AP
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Fighting between the country's military and paramilitary groups has the potential to trigger a devastating famine.

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A ruinous conflict raging for about a year between rival generals in Sudan risks creating the world’s largest hunger crisis, the top UN food official warned on Wednesday.

While global attention has been focused on the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, Cindy McCain, head of the World Food Program, said the fighting in Sudan has shattered the lives of millions across the north-eastern African nation.

“The war in Sudan risks triggering the world’s largest hunger crisis,” McCain said as she wrapped up a trip to neighbouring South Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of Sudanese have fled the fighting in their home country.

The UN food agency said some 18 million people across Sudan face acute hunger, with the most desperate trapped behind the front lines. Among them are 5 million who face starvation.

Sudan was plunged into chaos in April last year when clashes erupted in the capital, Khartoum, between the country’s military and a paramilitary group known as Rapid Support Forces.

The fighting quickly spread across the nation, largely affecting urban areas but also reaching the restive western Darfur region. Thousands of people have died since the violence began; in one incident, 10,000 and 15,000 were killed when paramilitary forces and allied Arab militias rampaged through a Darfur town.

Residents displaced from a surge of violent attacks squat on blankets and in hastily made tents in the village of Masteri in west Darfur, Sudan.
Residents displaced from a surge of violent attacks squat on blankets and in hastily made tents in the village of Masteri in west Darfur, Sudan.Mustafa Younes/Mustafa Younes

Two decades ago, Darfur became synonymous with genocide and war crimes, particularly by the notorious Janjaweed Arab militias, against populations that identify as Central or East African.

That history has now resurfaced. The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Karim Khan saying in late January there are grounds to believe both sides are committing possible war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Darfur.

The conflict has uprooted more than 10 million people either to safer areas inside Sudan or to neighbouring countries, according to UN agencies. South Sudan alone has received 600,000 people who fled the fighting.

“Twenty years ago, Darfur was the world’s largest hunger crisis and the world rallied to respond. But today, the people of Sudan have been forgotten,” McCain said.

Once in South Sudan, “one in five children in border transit centres suffers from malnutrition,” the WFP said.

McCain called for the warring parties to stop fighting and allow humanitarian agencies to provide life-saving assistance. Aid has been further disrupted after authorities revoked permits for cross-border truck convoys, WFP said. That forced the suspension of operations from Chad to Darfur.

“The consequences of inaction go far beyond a mother unable to feed her child and will shape the region for years to come,” McCain said.

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