Blog Post

Sudan Faces Risk of Widespread Famine, Says New IPC and FEWS Net Alerts

As conflict worsens in Sudan, the country is facing unprecedented levels of acute food insecurity and malnutrition, according to a new alerts from both Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) and FEWS Net.

The conflict has prevented regular data collection, but the most recent IPC analysis released in December 2023 raises serious concerns about the country’s food security situation. As much as 37 percent of Sudan’s population was projected to face IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) or above food insecurity by February 2024, with 10 percent expected to face IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) levels. As the conflict has escalated since the December analysis was completed, it is likely that these numbers will be even higher.

Central, southern, and western Sudan have been most heavily impacted by the conflict. With an early start to the lean season, which is projected to last from March through September, the already alarming food security situation is only expected to worsen. IPC Phase 3 food insecurity will likely become even more widespread, while IPC Phase 4 food insecurity is expected to expand in several regions. Households in West Darfur, Greater Darfur, Khartoum, and among the internally displaced population (which is nearly 6.5 million) may see their food security situation deteriorate to IPC Phase 5 (Catastrophe) by the end of the season, with some risk of famine in these areas.

Worsening food insecurity is being driven by a combination of factors, including:

  • a large gap in cereal availability (around two million tons, according to FEWS Net)
  • below-average 2023-2024 cereal harvests
  • severe import reductions, looting of private food stocks
  • skyrocketing staple food prices
  • inefficient or non-existent food distribution from surplus to deficit areas, and
  • a severe decline in household purchasing power due to displacement and disruption of livelihoods.

As households’ physical and financial access to food continues to deteriorate, many are turning to negative coping strategies, FEWS Net emphasizes. These include relying on support from family and neighbors, selling natural resources, liquidating assets such as livestock, consuming seeds, and migrating to pursue risky labor opportunities such as mining.

In addition to the severe lack of food access and availability, households throughout the country also face a dearth of access to clean water, sanitation facilities, and healthcare. IPC emphasizes that there is an extreme risk of disease outbreak and acute malnutrition in the coming months as a result. Already as of March, almost five million people were estimated to be suffering from acute malnutrition, an increase of over 22 percent from January 2023.

Both organizations point to the clear need for both an immediate ceasefire and increased humanitarian aid to prevent catastrophic food security and health outcomes in Sudan.

Sara Gustafson is a freelance communications consultant.