Refugees International Calls for Urgent Action to Avert Famine and Atrocities in Sudan

Statement from Refugees International Senior Advocate for East and Southern Africa Abdullahi Halakhe: 

“Refugees International is calling for unhindered humanitarian aid and an urgent scaling up of humanitarian delivery in Sudan to avert a likely famine affecting millions of people. Denial of humanitarian access and ongoing attacks on civilians by the Sudanese Armed Force (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have led to widespread hunger, and the Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWSNET) – the global standard for monitoring food insecurity – May alert warns that much of Sudan may face famine. 

Before the conflict, a third of Sudan’s population needed humanitarian aid. However, the war interrupted the planting and harvesting seasons and destroyed farming and food transportation infrastructure. As such, over half of the population now needs aid, with one-third facing acute food insecurity. Because of lack of access, it is difficult to get an up-to-date number, but the number of people in need is undoubtedly higher.

However, there is a narrow window of opportunity to reach the people in need and mitigate what may already be a full-fledged famine. The scheduled restart of Jeddah peace talks in Saudi Arabia’s capital in May should prioritize engaging the parties to the conflict to allow unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid across lines of control inside Sudan and the border from neighboring countries like Chad and South Sudan to the people in need. Any blocking of the internet and other communications networks must also be lifted, as these are vital lifelines for coordinating local aid efforts. Additionally, the parties should ensure the safety and security of humanitarian actors, including Emergency Response Rooms and other local Sudanese mutual aid groups. Donors should support the Sudan and regional humanitarian plans, which are still underfunded. The UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan for Sudan has received just 10 percent of the funds needed.

In addition to the risk of famine, parts of Sudan are also facing what could amount to genocide and other mass atrocity crimes. Most immediately, El Fashir, the Capital of North Darfur and the only city in Darfur that has not been captured by the RSF, is at high risk of being attacked by the RSF and allied militias and unleashing mass violence along ethnic lines. If not prevented, such atrocities would not only kill people directly but would also further exacerbate the hunger crisis. El Fashir has acted as a haven for about 1.5 million people, including about 800,000 internally displaced people, and is meant to be a hub for famine prevention. As the latest FEWSNET alert has warned, actions by the belligerents could substantially worsen food insecurity. The United States and other UN Security Council members must take urgent action to pressure the RSF and SAF and to engage those countries with leverage over the belligerents to demand the cessation of atrocities and to allow the free flow of aid.”

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