Geneva — The World Food Program is warning that 21% of Sudan's 40 million population faces acute hunger and will need emergency assistance between June and September, when food stocks are lowest.
Several factors have contributed to this situation. For example, over the past year, Sudan has faced hyperinflation, the worst floods in years, a locust infestation, and COVID-19 restrictions, which have caused massive job losses.
A nutritional survey by the Sudanese government, the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program finds 9.8 million people cannot feed themselves, putting many of their lives at risk.
The WFP says it will provide food assistance for 9.3 million of the most vulnerable people during the next six months, but it is $48 million short of what it needs for this operation and is appealing for support.
Marianne Ward is the WFP's deputy country director operations in Sudan. Speaking by video link from the capital, Khartoum, she says the WFP has been expanding its school feeding programs to provide children with nutritional biscuits.
"I recently was very far north of Khartoum where we were opening and inaugurating a new school to be part of our school feeding program," Ward said. "The school was literally mobbed by children whose families were sending them there so they could at least get one meal a day covered from somewhere else so the family could feed them."
Sudan's global acute malnutrition rate -- including young children with both moderate and severe acute malnutrition -- is 14%, at the edge of the World Health Organization's emergency threshold. This is a condition that in some cases can lead to death.
Ward says United Nations agencies are expanding nutrition centers across the country.
"For the first time ever, this last year, WFP began opening nutrition centers, emergency nutrition centers in Khartoum itself," Ward said. "Traditionally, WFP has not had to intervene in the capital because it is the heartbeat of the country and the richest place. But the situation, particularly with hyperinflation, has been so difficult for so many families that, indeed, it is on a crisis footing right now."
WFP says the cost of hunger to the Sudanese economy is estimated at $2 billion per year, or about 2.6% of its gross domestic product.