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World’s largest hunger crisis looms in Sudan, UN warns, as humanitarian response hits ‘breaking point’

A boy sits atop a hill overlooking a refugee camp near the Chad-Sudan border on November 9, 2023. Hundreds of Masalit families from Sudan's West Darfur state were relocated here months after fleeing to the Chadian border town of Adre, following an ethnically targeted massacre in the city of El Geneina. [El Tayeb Siddig/Reuters/File]

CNN — The war in Sudan is “triggering the world’s largest hunger crisis,” with more than 25 million people “trapped in a spiral” of food insecurity, a United Nations agency has warned.

Nine in 10 people across the country face “emergency levels of hunger” and are “stuck” in areas “largely inaccessible” due to “relentless violence and interference by the warring parties,” the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) said Wednesday.

The war, which has also created the world’s largest displacement crisis, according to the UN, has left 18 million people “acutely food insecure” in Sudan and millions more in neighboring South Sudan and Chad.

“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. Millions of lives and the peace and stability of an entire region are at stake,” said Cindy McCain, Executive Director of the WFP.

Thousands of people have been killed and eight million displaced since fighting broke out in April between forces loyal to two rival generals – army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who leads Sudan’s Armed Forces (SAF), and the head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

Both forces and their allied militias have been accused of killing civilians, ransacking houses and ethnic cleansing, leading to accusations of crimes against humanity and fueling the exodus from the East African country.

The WFP said it was now “struggling to keep pace with the significant level of need” and described the humanitarian response in the two neighboring states as “at breaking point.”

The crisis has deepened since the program was forced to halt its operations transporting aid from Chad to Sudan’s western Darfur region after local authorities revoked permission for cross-border truck convoys, according to the WFP. Since August, more than one million people had received WFP aid via the route.

One in five children at transit centers at the main border crossing between Sudan and South Sudan are malnourished, according to the WFP.

“Newly arrived displaced people in South Sudan make up 35 percent of those facing catastrophic levels of hunger – the highest possible level – despite accounting for less than 3 percent of the population,” the WFP added.

A woman sorts grains at a market in Gedaref, eastern Sudan, on February 22, 2024. Nearly a year into a war that has sent Sudan to the verge of collapse, the vast majority of its people are going hungry, the UN's World Food Programme says. [EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP/AFP via Getty Images]

‘Stomach-churning findings’

The warning from the WFP came as US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the UN had found evidence that girls as young as 14 had been raped by “elements” of the Rapid Support Forces in WFP storage facilities controlled by the paramilitary faction.

Thomas-Greenfield on Wednesday read out sections from the UN Panel of Experts’ final report on Sudan, a report she described as “52 pages of stomach-churning findings.”

She said the report claimed that RSF snipers “indiscriminately targeted civilians, including women, pregnant women and young people,” and “schools, hospitals, markets, government buildings and humanitarian assets were looted mostly by RSF and allied militias and destroyed by shelling and bombing by the two warring parties.”

The UN has previously said that a spike in gender-based violence since fighting broke out amounts to crimes against humanity. In July, the UN said that as many as 4.2 million women and girls were at increased risk of sexual violence, while a CNN investigation has detailed widespread cases of sexual assault alleged by Sudanese activists, particularly in the Darfur region, where entire communities have reportedly been ravaged by targeted ethnic-based killings.

Sudanese civilians walk through a nearly empty road with many shops closed for security reasons in Gedaref city in eastern Sudan on January 10, 2024. [AFP/Getty Images]

Thomas-Greenfield said the latest report included “gruesome photos” taken in West Darfur “where the RSF has targeted members of the Masalit community.”

“This is just a snapshot of the death, destruction, depravity that has defined this conflict. A conflict that, as this report details, is being fueled by arms transfers from a handful of regional powers. Armed transfers that must stop,” she said, remarking that the international community “is not doing nearly enough” to address the crisis.

“It is my hope that this sobering report will, at long last, shake the world from its indifference to the horrors playing out before our eyes,” she added.



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