First food aid in months reaches Darfur, yet limited humanitarian access is worsening Sudan's hunger catastrophe

"I fear that we will see unprecedented levels of starvation and malnutrition sweep across Sudan this lean season,” said WFP Representative and Country Director in Sudan, Eddie Rowe.

 PORT SUDAN – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has managed to bring desperately needed food and nutrition supplies into Darfur, the first WFP assistance to reach the war-wracked region in months. Yet, the UN food agency warns that unless the people of Sudan receive a constant flow of aid via all possible humanitarian corridors – from neighbouring countries and across battle lines – the country’s hunger catastrophe will only worsen.

 Two convoys crossed the border from Chad into Darfur in late March, carrying food and nutrition assistance for around 250,000 people facing acute hunger in North, West and Central Darfur. These are the first cross-border convoys of WFP assistance to reach Darfur following lengthy negotiations to reopen these routes after the authorities in Port Sudan revoked permissions for humanitarian corridors from Chad in February. 

 The temporary halt of the humanitarian corridor from Chad as well as ongoing fighting, lengthy clearance processes for humanitarian cargo, bureaucratic impediments, and security threats have made it impossible for humanitarians to operate at the scale needed to meet the hunger needs in Sudan.  

 “We need aid to be consistently reaching war-ravaged communities through every possible route. Hunger in Sudan will only increase as the lean season starts in just a few weeks. I fear that we will see unprecedented levels of starvation and malnutrition sweep across Sudan this lean season,” said WFP Representative and Country Director in Sudan, Eddie Rowe.  

 Last week, 37 trucks carrying 1,300 metric tons of supplies crossed into West Darfur from Adre in Chad and food distributions are underway in West and Central Darfur. But WFP has no clarity as to when the next aid convoy can travel via this route, which is vital if the humanitarian community stands a chance of preventing widespread starvation in West Darfur. Last year, WFP supported 1 million people in West and Central Darfur with food transported via Chad’s Adre crossing.

 Another 16 trucks with around 580 metric tons of supplies entered North Darfur from Chad’s Tina border crossing on 23rd March, while six trucks with 260 metric tons of food reached the area from Port Sudan a few days later – the first aid delivery to be transported across conflict lines in six months. Yet, fierce fighting, lack of security, and lengthy clearances by the warring parties, have led to delays in the distribution of this assistance to people in need.  

 “WFP and our partners urgently need security guarantees so supplies in North Darfur can be distributed to people who are struggling to find even one basic meal a day. Cross-border operations from Chad to Darfur are critical to reach communities where children are already dying of malnutrition. All corridors to transport food must remain open, particularly the one from Adre in Chad to West Darfur where levels of hunger are alarming,” said Rowe. 

 Sudan’s war is driving hunger to record levels, with 18 million people across the country facing acute hunger. In Darfur, 1.7 million people are in emergency levels of hunger (IPC4).

 Last month, WFP’s Executive Director Cindy McCain warned that the war in Sudan risks triggering the world’s worst hunger crisis unless families in Sudan and those who have fled to South Sudan and Chad receive desperately needed food assistance. This requires unfettered access, faster clearance processes, and funds to deliver a humanitarian response that meets the huge needs of civilians impacted by Sudan’s devastating war.