First UN food aid in months arrives in Sudan’s Darfur as famine looms

Aid deliveries follow talks to reopen humanitarian corridors from Chad amid warnings that millions face acute hunger.

A Sudanese woman carries a bag of food aid at the el-Riyadh camp for displaced people in el-Geneina, West Darfur [File: Ashraf Shazly/AFP]

The United Nations has begun distributing food in Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur region for the first time in months amid warnings of impending famine caused by a yearlong war and lack of access to food aid.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said two aid convoys crossed the border from Chad in late March, carrying food and nutrition assistance for about 250,000 people for a month.

Food distribution is now under way in West and Central Darfur, the WFP’s Sudan spokeswoman, Leni Kinzli, said on Friday.

The deliveries on Friday were the first WFP cross-border aid convoys to reach Darfur in western Sudan following lengthy negotiations to reopen humanitarian corridors from Chad after permission was revoked in February by authorities loyal to the Sudanese army.

In April last year, a rivalry between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Mohamad Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, broke into open conflict.

The battle is now causing one of the world’s worst hunger crises, and about a third of the population, or 18 million people, face acute hunger, UN aid agencies said.

The world body warned in March that 222,000 children could die from malnutrition in the coming months unless their aid needs are urgently met.

Situation severe in Darfur

In Darfur, the situation has been particularly severe with brutal attacks by the RSF reviving fears of another genocide. In 2003, as many as 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were driven from their homes, many by government-backed Arab militias.

Despite Friday’s aid delivery, the WFP has been unable to schedule further convoys.

“We are extremely concerned 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,” Kinzli, speaking via a weblink from Nairobi, told a news briefing in Geneva.

Sudan’s cereal production in 2023 was nearly halved, according to a report published in March by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The sharpest reductions were reported where the conflict was most intense, including Kordofan state and states in Darfur, where FAO estimated production was 80 percent below average.

Kinzli called the levels of hunger in West Darfur alarming.

While a separate convoy of trucks reached North Darfur from Port Sudan on the Red Sea in late March, she highlighted that the route from Chad was “vital if the humanitarian community stands a chance of preventing widespread starvation” in West Darfur.

“Hunger in Sudan will only increase as the lean season starts in just a few weeks,” WFP’s top envoy to Sudan, Eddie Rowe, said on Friday.

“I fear that we will see unprecedented levels of starvation and malnutrition sweep across Sudan.”

Source: News Agencies