The current turmoil in Sudan is plunging the country into uncertainty. On October 25, a state of emergency was declared, exacerbating the already limited access to basic services. The supply chain of essential items (especially food and medicine) has been impacted. There are fears of a worsening humanitarian situation for millions of Sudanese people.
The number of people in a highly vulnerable situation could increase as the country faces multiple crises: the health and economic crisis generated by COVID-19, the climate crisis, and the conflicts that are causing massive displacements throughout the nation and the surrounding region. The cycle of recurrent crises is preventing recovery.
“Even before the current situation, it is important to remember that nearly 81% of the Sudanese population faced barriers to accessing health care. An estimated 14% of children have acute malnutrition, and during the lean season, from June to September, more than 21% of the population was severely food insecure,” says Sanjida Tawhid, the Country Director of Action Against Hunger in Sudan.
According to the UN SDG 2021 report, almost 79 percent of the population is living below the poverty line, and 28 percent of total households are using negative food-based coping strategies. 51 percent of households have resorted to livelihood-based coping strategies, focusing on immediate food needs and depleting their assets.
“There is also a significant problem of access to water, sanitation and hygiene," Tawhid points out. "In Sudan, 50 percent of acute malnutrition in children is associated with repeated diarrhoea or worm infections related to lack of access to water, poor sanitation and hygiene practices.”
“Even before the current situation, it is important to remember that nearly 81% of the Sudanese population faced barriers to accessing health care.”
The 3Cs driving hunger: Climate, Conflict, and COVID-19
"The effects of the climate crisis have been evident for many years in Sudan,” says Menna Abraha, Africa Advocacy Officer for Action Against Hunger. “Deforestation, advancing desert, and recurrent disasters such as floods – among the worst in decades – all demonstrate the effects of the climate crisis in the country. We have also seen heavy flooding in [neighboring] South Sudan this summer, which has displaced thousands of people in the region.”
"Conflicts in the region also have a significant impact. Sudan hosts one of the largest refugee populations in Africa, the majority coming from South Sudan. Other refugees come from countries in conflict, such as Eritrea, the Central African Republic, Chad, Syria and Yemen. In addition, following the Tigray crisis in Ethiopia, nearly 60,000 new refugees have joined Sudan,” continues Menna.
The country has been impacted by the pandemic, with more than 20,000 cases in 2020 alone. Prior economic crisis and food insecurity have been exacerbated; confinements, border closures and the collapse of supply chains for essential goods such as medicines, food, and fuel have resulted in the loss of livelihoods for millions of people and one of the highest inflation rates in the world.
Sudan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, at 311 per 100,000 live births.
Women among the most affected
"As is often the case in crises and difficult situations, it is often women and children who are most vulnerable,” says Tawhid. Sudan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, at 311 per 100,000 live births.
In addition, Sudan has the highest rate of female genital mutilation in the world, with 82.65% of the reproductive age group being survivors. “Women and girls' lack of access to nearby water points and gender-segregated sanitation and menstrual hygiene management facilities contributed significantly to the risks of gender-based violence, directly impacting their health and nutritional status," says Tawhid.
Humanitarian services urgently needed
"The current tense situation worries us. As a humanitarian organization in Sudan, we have faced immense challenges in implementing lifesaving care. However, with support from the international community to collectively find solutions to the current obstacles, we are hopeful that Sudanese people may soon be able to achieve the peace and stability that they have worked so hard. Action Against Hunger will be there to continue ensuring their access to basic services and providing lifesaving response, and hopefully transitioning them to recovery,” Tawhid says.