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Famine looms in Sudan as conflict enters its second year


Sudan has become one of the world’s worst humanitarian tragedies with around 5 million people experiencing emergency levels of hunger. This puts Sudan on the brink of famine.

One year after conflict broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Sudan now faces one of the fastest growing crises in the world. In the past year around 13,900 people have lost their lives with 8.6 million people displaced. About 25 million people – of whom over 14 million are children – now need humanitarian assistance and support.

The country is situated in The Horn of Africa and The Sahel, which are some of the most climate affected areas globally and one of the poorest. Alongside battling extreme bouts of flood and drought, as well as high debt and inflation, Sudan has spent a year in the grip of a brutal conflict with its people now suffering hunger on a mass scale.

Conflict is still raging in the capital Khartoum, as well as Darfur region, and the South and North Kordofan states, with the fighting having recently extended to Gezira state and parts of Senar and Gedaref states in the east. The country is segmented with the warring countries in charge of these segments. No functional governance system is in place, with no known steps being taken to broker a peaceful resolution.

Church leaders in Sudan say political support is required to improve the humanitarian situation. In a statement released last month, the Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference raised concerns ‘the international community has forgotten the Sudan crisis.’

Every second person in Sudan is now dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, as reported by the UN. People have few alternatives to aid as the fighting has caused extensive damage to critical infrastructure, including water and healthcare, with frequent interruptions to electricity and telecommunication services. Banking and financial services have also collapsed, and looting is widespread. 


'The outlook is especially dire for women and girls. Globally, women and girls are often heavily affected by displacement due to their lack of access to resources and decision-making power. However, even against global contexts, the rates of gender-based violence and sexual violence in Sudan are a disturbing feature of this conflict.'


The Sudan emergency is also one of the largest displacement crises globally. Millions have fled internally and to neighbouring countries, creating a complex diaspora across other nations affected by similar levels of economic instability and food insecurity.

We are seeing people attempt to start from nothing, and create a home and a life, in the most challenging of circumstances. Many are having to do so multiple times as conflict continues to threaten their safety wherever they turn.

The outlook is especially dire for women and girls. Globally, women and girls are often heavily affected by displacement due to their lack of access to resources and decision-making power. However, even against global contexts, the rates of gender-based violence and sexual violence in Sudan are a disturbing feature of this conflict.  

In the 6 months following the outbreak of violence the number of people in need of gender-based violence services in Sudan increased by over 1 million to 4.2 million people - this number is expected to increase to 6.9 million in 2024. Sexual violence is widespread across the country. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed alarm over reports that women and girls are being abducted, chained, and held in ‘inhuman, degrading slave-like conditions.’ 

In response to these challenges, members of the Australian Humanitarian Partnership have 45 local partners working across Sudan to address the needs of over 6.6 million people, including 2.3 million children. This support covers everything from providing food and multipurpose cash assistance, to shelter, psychosocial support, hygiene services, and gender-based violence protection.  

The nature of the regional displacement means deep ties to neighbouring countries is also crucial.  When the war broke out, our Caritas partner in Chad was one of the only humanitarian organisations active in the remote area of Andressa along the border of Sudan. By July last year, just three months into the conflict, Caritas Chad had supported over 1,200 households with emergency food supplies, and 420 with non-food supplies.

Another Caritas local partner is the only South Sudanese organisation working in a Transit Camp on the border in Renk. As late as the end of last year, they reported 4,200 refugees were arriving there each day, around 90 per cent of them women and girls.

Earlier this month The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) called on the Australian Government to provide $50 million in new and additional funding to address the humanitarian catastrophe occurring in Sudan and the wider region. Earlier this month, world Governments including Canada, the UK, Germany, the US, and EU made pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars at a humanitarian conference in Paris. Caritas Australia signed a letter to Foreign Minister Penny Wong, alongside ACFID and several other humanitarian agencies, supporting that call for funding.

In March, we also attended an event on the Sudan Crisis at Parliament House, hosted by the Sudanese Australian Advocacy Network (SAAN) where we spoke in depth about the humanitarian need. We attended that event as part of the launch of Safer World For All, a campaign backed by a coalition of 25 humanitarian aid agencies.

At its core, the Safer World for All campaign sees like-minded organisations pushing for the Australia government to act to prevent the emergence of overlapping global catastrophes.

Sudan is a shocking and raw example of how conflict, climate and economic catastrophes can converge, and give people few options for survival.

Here in Australia, we have a moral imperative to act in the face of extreme humanitarian crises, and work to prevent them. For Caritas Australia, standing with and amplifying the voices of our global brothers and sisters, such as those in Sudan, is a vital part of our work. To echo Pope Francis, who speaks in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, ‘it is an act of charity to assist someone suffering but it is also an act of charity to work to change the social conditions that caused his or her suffering’.


To support Caritas Australia’s Sudan Crisis Appeal, visit www.caritas.org.au/sudan or call 1800 024 413 toll free.      




Kirsty Robertson is the CEO of Caritas Australia.

Main image: Displaced people arrive in South Sudan from Sudan through the Joda boarder crossing (UNHCR/Ala Kheir)


Topic tags: Kirsty Robertson, Famine, Sudan, Aid, Caritas



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