9582nd Meeting (AM)

Conflict Between Warring Parties in Sudan Pushing Millions to Brink of Famine, Top UN Officials Tell Security Council, Warning Entire Generation Could Be Destroyed

Country on Course to Become World’s Worst Hunger Crisis, Aid Chief Says, As Delegates Urge Immediate Cessation of Hostilities, Renewed Political Dialogue

Conflict between warring parties in Sudan is driving a hunger crisis dangerously approaching famine for millions of people, senior United Nations officials warned the Security Council today, calling for an urgent cessation of hostilities before an entire generation is destroyed and the wider region is destabilized.

“We are here today to warn you of a far-reaching and fast-deteriorating situation of food insecurity in Sudan,” said Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations and Advocacy in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which is “truly the stuff of nightmares”.  There are reports of mass graves, gang rapes, shockingly indiscriminate attacks in densely populated areas and “many more horrors”, she reported, with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) warning that some acts may amount to war crimes.  In Khartoum, Darfur and Kordofan there has been no respite from fierce fighting for 340 days. 

These hostilities have resulted in looting and widespread destruction of critical infrastructure; farmers forced to abandon their farmlands; and the prices of basic food commodities driven up by 83 per cent.  By all measures, “Sudan is one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory,” she stressed, precipitating the world’s largest international displacement crisis, and “on course to become the world’s worst hunger crisis,” she said. Estimates indicate that, in the coming weeks and months, 222,000 children could die of malnutrition. 

Despite the need for humanitarian aid, she reported that there has not been major progress on the ground since the Council’s adoption of a resolution calling for full, unhindered access.  At a minimum, identified entry points must be made operational as soon as possible, with the parties protecting humanitarian staff and supplies.  Recalling that her Office has delivered eight briefings to the Council since the conflict broke out, she said that she cannot explain in greater terms the catastrophic situation or “underscore more the need for Council action”.

Echoing that warning, Carl Skau, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), said that across the region, nearly 28 million people face acute food insecurity with 18 million in Sudan, 7 million in South Sudan, and nearly 3 million in Chad.  The WFP has been working endlessly to meet the massive humanitarian needs, with its team risking their own safety.  However, the emergency relief operation is severely hampered by a lack of access and resources; 90 per cent of the people in Phase 4 of the IPC — the Integrated Phase Classification for measuring food security — are trapped in areas that are largely inaccessible to humanitarian agencies.   

Efforts to reach these civilians are challenged by the relentless violence and interference from the warring parties, he said.  While welcoming the recent announcement by the authorities that will allow resumed cross-border aid deliveries from Chad and open a new corridor from South Sudan, he called for other border crossings to also reopen to get aid into the greater Darfur region.  He voiced concern that hunger will spike when Sudan’s lean season arrives in May, with a high risk of IPC level 5 or catastrophic food insecurity. 

He also noted the world’s worst displacement crisis, scattering over 8 million people internally and across Sudan’s borders.  Nearly 2 million people have fled into neighboring countries to escape the bloodshed, putting mounting pressure on Chad and South Sudan.  In South Sudan, due to a lack of funds, 3 million acutely hungry people are receiving no assistance from WFP, while in Chad, it will have to end all support to the 1.2 million refugees and nearly 3 million acutely hungry Chadians.  The “forgotten crisis” requires political solutions to halt the fighting, and “we are running out of time”, he stressed. 

Maurizio Martina, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), affirmed that expanding hostilities across south-eastern Sudan had grave consequences for the January harvest of millet and sorghum.  Further, he reported that the spread of fighting to Al Jazirah significantly threatens national food production as that state accounts for about 50 per cent of Sudan’s wheat.  By July 2023, just three months into the conflict, 42 per cent of the population were projected to face “crisis” or worse levels of acute food insecurity — a 74 per cent increase compared to 2022. 

Areas with active conflict are recording the most highly food-insecure populations, and a large majority of the more than 8 million people displaced in the world’s largest displacement crisis not only require urgent assistance to survive but have also left behind agriculture-based livelihoods — further disrupting national food production. Additionally, the widespread disruption of crucial markets and transportation routes is leading to irregular deliveries, reduced quantities and varieties of goods and steadily increased food prices. 

He reported that the performance of the 2023 main cereal production season was very poor and that the high production costs of cereals are likely to further inflate already exceptionally high market prices.  “The outlook for food production in 2024 is bleak,” he underscored, urging that a peaceful political solution and immediate cessation of hostilities is an essential first step to eliminate the risk of famine.  “Where farmers can access land and inputs, they will produce food,” he stated, underlining that funds life-saving agricultural assistance “must come now”.

In the ensuing debate, a number of Council members — including the representatives of Switzerland, Slovenia, Malta, the United Kingdom, Republic of Korea and Japan — echoed the briefer’s warnings of a famine in Sudan that is materializing today — further calling on the parties to the conflict to silence their weapons immediately and engage in dialogue towards a political solution.

The representative of Algeria, also speaking for Guyana, Mozambique and Sierra Leone, observed that, “if we had the ability to reverse the hand of time”, it would have been “unimaginable” for a country like Sudan — a breadbasket known for its abundant resources and agricultural traditions — to face acute risk of food insecurity.  He therefore underlined the need to ensure unrestricted access for humanitarian aid to reach affected areas across borders and front lines, welcoming the Sudanese Government’s decision to facilitate access through several cross-border points and calling for speedy implementation. 

Stating that it is “clear” that addressing humanitarian aspects must go hand in hand with reaching a comprehensive political solution, he called on the protagonists to “clearly commit” to a ceasefire as a critical first step.  While Council resolution 2724 (2024) brought hope, there is much to be done to ensure its full implementation.  “The situation in Sudan is not of any less importance than any other file on this Council’s agenda,” he said, urging those present to remain focused on deescalating tensions in coordination with the Sudanese authorities. 

Echoing that Sudan was once considered the future breadbasket of East Africa, Ecuador’s delegate called for international cooperation aimed at rebuilding or creating infrastructure.  He warned that the fighting has created the highest number of displaced persons on the planet — almost 8 million people — which may destabilize the region, calling for the cessation of hostilities during the month of Ramadan, as a peaceful settlement is the only way to prevent a humanitarian disaster. 

Similarly, the United States’ representative called for the parties to not only immediately ensure unhindered humanitarian access but begin direct negotiations and cease hostilities.  Reiterating that members of the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces have committed war crimes, she demanded that they protect civilians in all circumstances — urging regional Powers to immediately end the provision of weapons to the parties in Sudan. Recalling that the United States is the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Sudan and neighboring countries, providing more than $968 million since September 2023, she stressed: “We cannot do it alone.”

The speaker for France called on the two parties to “bend to international law” and respect their commitments to protect civilians, protect humanitarian workers and lift all obstacles to aid delivery across borders and front lines.  Spotlighting the “almost virtual collapse of the food system as a whole” in Sudan, she noted that facilitating access on the ground is one of the main goals of the international humanitarian conference for Sudan and neighbouring countries that France, Germany and the European Union have organized for Paris on 15 April. 

However, other Council members decried the politicization of humanitarian issues, with the Russian Federation’s delegate warning that economic and other restrictive measures applied by the West have undermined the stability of Sudanese society.  While some delegations and UN representatives fear that Sudan is almost completely engulfed in famine, “such alarmist assessments are not shared by everyone,” she stated — and the reality is that food is available and the shelves of markets and stores are not empty.  The problem, as reported by the World Bank, is that Sudan's economy is shrinking significantly, by 12 per cent in 2023.  She urged the Council “not to turn everything on its head”, as Sudanese authorities are demonstrating their openness and constructive cooperation.

Echoing that sentiment, China’s delegate stressed that that countries have recently used humanitarian aid as a political tool to pressure and sanction, and have even directly interfered in Sudan’s internal affairs.  This is one of the major contributors to the prolonged turmoil, which eventually plunged the country into deep crisis, an unfolding tragedy deserving in-depth reflection by the Council. 

For his part, the representative of Sudan insisted the country is facing “an aggression”, with the United Arab Emirates supporting, financing and supplying weapons and equipment to the Rapid Support Forces.  Calling on all States that are contributing to the conflict to stop, he recalled that there is an arms embargo that should be respected.  Countering a narrative, he recalled that all passage points are open, especially the al-Tineh crossing.  “There is no attempt to hinder the supply and delivery of humanitarian assistance,” he stressed, and “there is no indication that Sudan is hovering around a famine.” 

Delineating data on crops, and the need for imports, he noted that the Rapid Support Forces are preventing farmers from reaching their fields.  After those attacks, there is a deficit of 1.5 million tons of corn which can be remedied by importing.  He called upon the UN to help end to the war of aggression supported by the United Arab Emirates, for humanitarian assistance to strengthen local production and food security.  Sudan further needs help to combat epidemics, and in strengthening infrastructure for irrigation and to better use seeds and grain provided by the FAO.

For information media. Not an official record.