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Expanding conflict and displacement drive even higher needs during the harvest

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Sudan
  • December 2023
Expanding conflict and displacement drive even higher needs during the harvest

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through May 2024
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Key Messages
    • The recent expansion of fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) into parts of central and eastern Sudan has driven a significant increase in humanitarian needs during the typical harvesting season (December and January). This development is expected to lead to considerable deterioration in acute food insecurity in the southeast from what was previously expected, worsening an already severe situation. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected across much of the country, with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in heavily conflict-affected urban areas of Khartoum, Greater Darfur, Greater Kordofan, and parts of Blue Nile. Of highest concern are populations in parts of Khartoum, El Geneina, Nyala, Wad Madani, and among the displaced due to the impacts of intensive fighting and disruption to humanitarian aid.     
    • In the eight months of war between SAF and RSF, the conflict continues to be characterized by extensive looting of public and private property, including assets and food stocks; widespread damage and destruction of critical infrastructure; disruption of trade flows, markets, and basic services, including delivery of humanitarian aid; and significant displacement. Following recent attacks in Al Jazirah and the theft of 2,500 metric tons of assistance from a World Food Program (WFP) warehouse in Wad Madani, assistance remains suspended in the state, and distribution to hard-to-reach areas of Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan remains extremely challenging and inconsistent. As of the end of December, over 7 million people have been displaced by the conflict – 5.8 million internally and 1.5 million fleeing across borders. 
    • The fighting in central and eastern Sudan, which is the country's most important region for crop production, is a serious threat to national food availability. Significant disruption to the ongoing main season harvest and cultivation of winter wheat is expected to further reduce production levels, which were already forecasted to be below average. Furthermore, given lack of restraint in looting and destruction of market and household food stocks, the anticipated movement of the conflict into Gedaref, a critical location for national grain storage, adds to the alarm for serious supply losses and impacts on national food availability, leading to an even earlier, atypical start of the lean season.   
    • In December, prices overall continued to rise across most markets despite the ongoing harvesting, indicative of disruption to trade flows, high production costs, and the impact of anticipated below-average harvests. However, the disruption to market functionality due to the recent attacks led to wide fluctuations in market prices within the course of a few days in December – prices reportedly dropped rapidly in mid- to late-December in the recently affected main production markets due to significant disruption to the markets and excess sale of stocks by traders due to high risk of looting.

    Current Situation

    Conflict and displacements: The battle between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continued unabated in December, with a significant expansion into the previously calm and heavily populated areas in central and eastern Sudan, as well as to new areas in Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan. On December 18, following a surprise attack and three days of intense fighting, RSF declared its control over the town of Wad Madani, capital of Al Jazirah state located about 136 km south of Khartoum and home to about 700,000 people. Clashes were also reported across eastern parts of Al Jazirah state as RSF consolidated control along this new front, including: Hantub village, Abu Haraz, and Abu Gouta towns of Madani Al Kubra locality; and Rufa’ah Town, Junayd, Umm Shanaq, and Wad Rawah villages of Sharg Al Jazirah locality (Figure 1). This move exposes the eastern areas of Sudan to fighting and has significantly altered the conflict landscape in the country, with serious implications for the food security of millions of residents and displaced populations. 

    Extensive population displacement and widespread looting of public and private property, including hospitals, markets, stores, and private residences, have again been reported across the areas under attack in Al Jazirah. According to DTM, over 500,000 people have been displaced to Al Jazirah since the start of the conflict. The recent expansion of conflict into the state is estimated to have led to fresh displacement of over 500,000 people, roughly 40 percent of whom were already displaced to Al Jazirah from Khartoum. Many of those displaced due to the most recent fighting have moved within Al Jazirah while others have sought refuge in neighboring states of Gedaref, Sennar, White Nile, or onward to Red Sea, River Nile, or Northern states (Figure 2). Those fleeing are reportedly sheltering in open areas, in improvised shelters, schools, and within the host communities with poor water and sanitation conditions and lacking financial access to food. Humanitarian food distributions on which many were dependent have been halted amid the fighting, and UN OCHA has announced the suspension of all humanitarian field missions within and from Al Jazirah state since 15 December until further notice. Indeed, the city was serving as a primary humanitarian, trade, and medical hub before the surprise attack, and its fall has led to a massive disruption in the provision of aid.  

    Figure 1

    Areas of control in Central Sudan as of the end of 2023 (RSF=red and SAF=green)
    Areas of control in Central Sudan as of the end of 2023 (RSF=red and SAF=green)

    Source: Sudan War Monitor

    Figure 2

    Displacement following attacks on Al Jazirah in mid-December
    map of displacement from Al Jazirah in mid-December

    Source: IOM DTM Flash Update December 23, 2023

    In Khartoum state, shelling and direct clashes continued in downtown Khartoum, Bahri, Omdurman, and Jebel Awlia localities, with fighting concentrated around strategic sites and bases. Given RSF difficulties in capturing these sites, it has increasingly turned to blockading and besieging remaining SAF strongholds as well as civilian neighborhoods in areas vital to the supply of SAF positions. These intermittent blockades are greatly disrupting the flow of food and movement of civilians. Further south in Jebel Awlia, recent clashes led to widespread displacement and the destruction of main infrastructure including the Jebel Awlia bridge, the second bridge damaged after the Shambat bridge further north connecting Omdurman to downtown Khartoum.

    Outside of Khartoum, the conflict also surged in different parts of Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan. In North Darfur, RSF attacks increased in Um Keddada and El Fasher localities. At the same time, clashes erupted between the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA – Abdelwahid) and an Arab armed group in Tawila locality, North Darfur, resulting in burning of houses and massive displacement from the area. In Nyala town of South Darfur, armed clashes restarted between SAF and RSF after 2 months of relative calm, fueling renewed displacement. On December 29, SAF reportedly bombed the city, causing the deaths of dozens of civilians and the destruction of public and private infrastructure. In West Darfur, the situation in the area remains tense and volatile since the violent attacks by RSF on Ardamata Town of El Geneina locality in November 2023. In South Kordofan, clashes renewed between the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North Al-Hilu wing (SPLM-N Al Hilu), Arab Hawazma tribesmen, and RSF in Dilling and Habila localities. 

    Overall, the displacement crisis, the largest seen globally, continues to worsen amid the ongoing conflict and its expansion into the heavily populated southeastern states. According to DTM Sudan, the figure had surpassed 7 million displaced both inside and outside of Sudan as of December 27 – 5.8 million internally displaced and 1.5 million displaced outside of the country. Compared to the end of November, the number of displaced increased by over 560,000 people with the largest monthly increases of an additional 50-75,000 people seen in Gedaref, Sennar, Al Jazirah, East Darfur, and Red Sea. However, it is important to remember these figures are likely an underestimation of the true extent of displacement. Moreover, the tracking of displacement is complicated by extensive re-displacement of those originally displaced from Khartoum into the north, east, and southeast – nearly 65 percent of total displaced have come from Khartoum. Of all displaced, the largest share remain in Greater Darfur (11-12 percent of total displaced population are in South Darfur and East Darfur) as well as in River Nile (11 percent of total) and Al Jazirah (9 percent of total). Many of those displaced have fled with few assets and limited to no savings and are heavily dependent on host populations and/or external assistance.

    2023/24 main harvest: The harvest of millet and sorghum is currently underway in the main producing areas in the rain-fed, semi-mechanized, and irrigated sectors. However, the harvesting process has been significantly disrupted in many areas due to the recent expansion of the conflict to some of the major production centers, particularly in Al Jazirah, but also in neighboring Gedaref, Sennar, and White Nile states, and parts of South Kordofan state. Direct fighting and bombardment, terrorizing of civilians, displacement, and looting are affecting access to farms for harvesting and exacerbating challenges, including shortages of agricultural machinery, extremely high prices of fuel, and scarcity of labor. This will likely delay the harvest process in the affected areas and lead to high pre- and post-harvesting losses. This is on top of already forecasted below-average national harvest due to considerable reductions in cultivated area – according to an analysis conducted in late November by NASA Harvest/Arizona State University in collaboration with FEWS NET/USGS, the cultivated area in Al Jazirah and Gedaref states was estimated to be 36 and 25 percent lower than last year, respectively, translating to a reduction of nearly 1.5 million hectares under cultivation (Figure 3). While information is limited for other areas of the country, it is expected that areas proximate to heavy fighting will have below-average harvests with some experiencing significantly below-average harvests.

    Figure 3

    Analysis of changes in cultivated area in Al Jazirah and Gedaref as of late November 2023
    Analysis of changes in cultivated area in Al Jazirah and Gedaref as of late November 2023

    Source: NASA Harvest/ASU and FEWS NET/USGS

    National food stocks: In addition to the reductions in cereal production during cultivation and harvesting, cereal stocks at storage, trader, and household levels are expected to be further seriously impacted by the large-scale looting and destruction of markets and stores in conflict-affected areas. The bulk of Sudan’s grain storage capacity is concentrated in the surplus-producing areas of the southeast (Gedaref, Al Jazirah, Sennar, White Nile, Blue Nile), with the largest silos and storage capacity found in parts of Gedaref, including the strategic reserves of the Sudanese Agricultural Bank. Main markets across this area also typically hold the largest stocks given the risks involved in storing large quantities of grain in historically more insecure areas of Greater Darfur and parts of Greater Kordofan. The expansion of fighting into Al Jazirah and Sennar has already triggered panicked sales and/or movement of food stocks to avoid losses from looting – field information by traders and FEWS NET market enumerators in El Gedaref and Sennar markets reported many big traders moving stocks out of the main markets to rural villages. The crop auction market in El Gedaref has also remained closed since the attack on Wad Madani as farmers and traders started excess sales of their stock to reduce cost of transportation and mitigate the risk of looting. 

    Cultivation of winter wheat: Winter wheat cultivation has begun in the main irrigated schemes of Al Jazirah, Halfa Al Jadeeda in Kassala state, and Al Rahad schemes in El Gadaref state, in addition to the small-scale cultivation in Northern and River Nile state. The total targeted area this year was set at about one million feddan (420,000 hectares), 30 percent of which is in the Al Jazirah scheme. This target was high, almost 53 percent above the five-year average, and as of the end of December, only about 45 percent of the targeted area had been cultivated. Wheat cultivation this year is highly constrained by limited agricultural finance, shortage and high cost of agricultural inputs, including fertilizers, seeds, and fuel, and hotter-than-typical weather conditions. Moreover, the expansion of the conflict into Al Jazirah is exacerbating challenges, directly affecting the functioning of the Gezira scheme and further reducing the cultivation prospects, likely to result in significantly below-average cultivation this year. 

    Livestock production: Typically, seasonal livestock migration from northern wet season grazing areas towards the southern dry season grazing areas in South Sudan begins in mid-December and January. However, the expansion of conflict, increased intercommunal clashes, and widespread insecurity are disrupting the major animal migratory routes. Livestock are concentrating in the relatively secure areas of Al Butana grazing areas in Gedaref and Kassala states, Al Baja grazing areas in White Nile state, and some relatively secure areas in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. The concentrations are likely leading to over-grazing as well as increasing the chances of clashes between farmers and herders. Further south and west, Arab herders from East Darfur and West Kordofan have migrated into Northern Bahr al Ghazal in South Sudan more than a month earlier than usual due to the conflict and deteriorating pasture conditions, increasing the risk of conflict with the local Dinka Mulual community. Similar earlier migratory movements from areas of conflict to the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, and relatively secure areas in Sudan are likely occurring. While conflict between herders and farmers typically increases seasonally during the dry season as herders migrate through cultivated areas and interfere with crop harvests, these early-than-usual movements and potential use of undesignated routes risk further inflaming disputes with farmers. In addition, a shortage and lack of drugs and vaccines and the absence of routine vaccination campaigns are widely reported across the country, increasing the possibility of disease outbreaks particularly given the concentration of livestock.

    Macroeconomy: The economic situation has continued to deteriorate in Sudan through December 2023, driven by severe disruption to economic activity by the ongoing fighting between SAF and RSF, persistently low foreign currency reserves, high inflation rates, and continued local currency depreciation. This has been exacerbated by the severe reductions in export revenue and limited capacity of the government to stimulate the economy amid persistent fighting. The Sudanese pound (SDG) has continued to devalue relative to the United States Dollar (USD) at a faster pace on the parallel market. Between October and December 2023, the rate deteriorated from 950 SDG/USD to 1050 SDG/USD, which is 74 percent higher than that of March (595 SDG/USD), before the start of the conflict (Figure 4). This deterioration in value has been partly driven by the continued increase in demand for hard currencies by individuals and households with a rapid increase in the number of people leaving the country as well as demand by private companies and the government to import some essential requirements, including medicines, food items and fuel. Demand for the latter increased particularly following the destruction of the main fuel refinery in northern Khartoum as well as damage to many fuel stations and massive looting of fuel stocks in most of the areas invaded by RSF.  

    Figure 4

    Official and parallel market exchange rates, January 2020 – December 2023
    Official and parallel market exchange rates, January 2020 – December 2023

    Source: FEWS NET, data from almashhadalsudani.com

    Trade flow and market functionality: The expansion of the conflict, and particularly the seizure of Wad Madani which has served as a major hub of trade notably following the decline in functionality of Omdurman market in Khartoum, has further disrupted trade flow and market functionality. Movement along the western route linking Madani to Kosti and onward to El Obeid and El Fasher, the main route for commodities and humanitarian assistance to Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan, have been further disrupted (Figure 4). Routes in the east from Port Sudan down to Gedaref and Sennar have faced increasing disruption following the attacks on Al Jazirah. While the routes are still under the control of SAF, activity is limited by the increased number of SAF checkpoints and a significant increase in the number of trucks and vehicles using the route amid rising displacement towards Kassala and Port Sudan. In central, eastern, and western Sudan, some alternative unpaved routes linking Darfur with the Northern state through the Al Malha Al Daba route and linking Khartoum to central and eastern Sudan (via the Al Butana route) are increasingly being used instead of the tarmac roads to avoid RSF checkpoints. 

    El Obeid in North Kordofan remains a heavily contested site between RSF and SAF with serious implications for the supply and prices in markets in central, eastern, and western Sudan. El Fasher and Nyala markets supplies have been further affected by the RSF take-over of Um Keddada which gives them control over nearly all entries to El Fasher. The persistently poor security situation across Greater Kordofan and Greater Darfur continues to greatly limit market trade flows into and within Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan, with the most severely impacted markets likely to continue to be El Geneina in West Darfur and Zalengei in Central Darfur given the intensity of conflict there. Overall, trade flows and market functionality are expected to be highly disrupted across the country, negatively impacting the availability and prices of locally produced and imported essential commodities. The massive looting of shops and stores in most of the conflict-affected areas will further weaken traders’ and suppliers’ ability to provide services and continue trading activities.

    Figure 5

    Markets and trade route activity map, December 2023
    Markets and trade flows, December 2023

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 6

    Price trends in retail sorghum (SDG/kg) from March to December 2023 in select markets
    Price trends in retail sorghum (SDG/kg) from March to December 2023 in select markets

    Source: FEWS NET, data from FAMIS

    Staple food prices: Overall, sorghum and millet prices continue to vary across markets in Sudan, driven by the level of impact of the conflict on market functionality and trade flows, the deterioration of economic conditions characterized by high inflation rates, and depreciation of the local currency; and high production and transportation costs. In December, data indicated rising prices across most markets despite the ongoing harvesting, indicative of conflict-related disruptions to trade flows, high production costs, and the impact of anticipated below-average harvests. Compared to the peak of the lean season (August-September), December prices were significantly higher (+17-33 percent) in Wad Madani, Kadugli, El Obeid, Nyala, and El Gedarif (Figure 6). As of the end of December, the average price of sorghum was 45 percent above December 2022 and 252 percent above the five-year average.

    However, these increases mask short-term atypical weekly fluctuations indicative of greater market dysfunction – according to the FEWS NET’s market enumerators, crop prices started to drop rapidly in the days following the attacks in Al Jazirah – in Gedaref market, sorghum price dropped 20 percent, from 30,000 SGD/90 kg sack to 25,000 SDG/90 kg sack, millet prices dropped 32 percent, from 35,000 SDG/100 kg sack to 27 SDG/100 kg sack, sesame price dropped 56 percent in three days-time, from 270 SDG/Guntar to 180 SDG/Guntar (Guntar =45 Kg). Similar market disruptions have been reported in the Sennar market in Sennar state and Kosti market in White Nile state following information of RSF movements towards the mentioned locations. 

    In December, wheat prices started to increase by 10 to 15 percent across most markets in Sudan driven by seasonal reductions in supplies from the last March/April 2023 harvest and relatively increased demand. Between November and December, prices increased 17 and 13 percent in the country’s main wheat production markets of El Damer and Dongola, respectively, due to relatively high demand while the poor preparation for the winter season is contributing to the seasonally reduced supplies. The average wheat prices are almost 65 percent higher than December 2022 and 250 percent above the five-year average, driven by the high cost of production and local currency devaluation. 

    Livestock prices: As of the end of December, livestock markets and the flow of livestock from production areas to main consumption markets in Sudan continue to be significantly disrupted by the ongoing conflict. Between November and December 2023, goat, sheep, and cattle prices either remained atypically stable or slightly declined due to the reduced local and export demand and disruption of trade routes. Kassala and Sennar are the only markets that indicated 10-15 percent increase in goat prices while Port Sudan, Al Fula (West Kordofan), and Nyala (South Darfur) are the only markets reporting slight increases (7-8 percent) in sheep prices due to the relative stability during this period and relatively better demand in Port Sudan due to presence of an increased number of the federal government officials and humanitarian workers. In comparison to the pre-conflict period of March 2023, goat and cattle prices in December 2023 increased on average by 30 percent across most of the monitored markets, and sheep prices increased on average by 35 percent, with the highest increase of 70-80 percent reported in Ad Deain and Dongola markets. Compared to December 2022, goat prices were 25 to 65 percent higher, and sheep prices were 30 to 70 percent higher across most markets, although significantly higher increases were observed in Rabak, Kassala, and Dongola (105 to 130 percent). Cattle prices were 20 to 80 percent higher than in December 2022 in most markets with Ad Dain reporting the highest increase of 150 percent. The high increases compared to last year are due to the high inflation and rapid local currency depreciation and exacerbated by the conflict. 

    Terms of Trade:  Labor-to-sorghum and goat-to-sorghum terms-of-trade (TOT) serve as proxies for household purchasing power, indicating the quantity of sorghum that households can buy with either a day’s labor wage or the sale of a medium-sized goat. The agricultural labor dynamics have been widely disrupted during this primary harvesting period in December due to the heavy fighting in the main semi-mechanized and irrigated producing areas in Al Jazirah and fears that it will spread further in Sennar and Gedaref. In December, the labor-to-sorghum TOT dropped 28 percent in El Gedaref driven by the combined drop in labor wages and 16 percent rise in sorghum prices – in December, a labor-dependent household would be able to purchase 11 kilograms of sorghum with a full day of labor, compared to 15 kilograms in November. By contrast, a labor-dependent household in Kassala saw an improvement from November to December in TOTs.  It is important to note that labor-dependent households typically do not work full days and thus income would be spread out of several days. Compared to last year, the labor-to-sorghum TOTs remain higher (15 and 40 percent in Kassala and El Gedaref markets, respectively), however, labor opportunities are likely to be much reduced amid the recent attacks and disruption to harvesting and cultivation (Figure 7).

    Figure 7

    Labor-to-sorghum TOT in El Gedaref and Kassala markets, and goat-to-sorghum TOT in El Obeid market, January 2020– December 2023
    Labor-to-sorghum TOT in El Gedaref and Kassala markets, and goat-to-sorghum TOT in El Obeid market, January 2020– December 2023

    Source: FEWS NET, data from FAMIS

    The goat-to-sorghum terms-of-trade in El Obeid market increased 19 percent in December, a slight recovery following the 28 percent decline in November amid intense fighting that month. In December, a household would be able to purchase 143 kilograms of sorghum with the sale of a medium-sized goat compared to 121 kilograms in November. Nevertheless, ongoing periodic clashes between RSF and SAF in El Obied continue to disrupt market activities and reduce households’ ability to sell animals and purchase cereal as normal. Nationwide, and particularly in urban areas, purchasing power is rapidly dwindling as most of the typical income sources have been negatively impacted by the conflict either in terms of the government and private sector's inability to pay employees’ salaries on a regular basis over the past nine consecutive months or the widespread theft of household assets and goods, and worsened by the overall economic unfavorable conditions currently prevailing in Sudan.

    Disease outbreaks: In late September, the Ministry of Health declared a cholera outbreak in Gedaref. As of December 23, cases had spread to 46 localities across 9 states, with over 8,000 suspected cases reported. Vaccination has been ongoing, reaching 2.2 million people in Gedaref and Al Jazirah, however, the recent conflict expansion and further displacement are likely to complicate further progress. Amid continued destruction and disruption to health, water, and sanitation facilities and services, and large-scale displacement, sanitation and health conditions are expected to remain poor, particularly in crowded displacement areas. Furthermore, diseases such as cholera can severely aggravate acute malnutrition.

    Humanitarian Assistance: On December 15, 2023, the UNOCHA announced the suspension of all humanitarian field missions within and from Al Jazirah state until further notice. Similarly, WFP has been forced to temporarily suspend food assistance in parts of Al Jazirah where it had been regularly providing assistance for about 800,000 people. It confirmed looting of its warehouses and offices in Wad Madani which held 2,500 metric tons of sorghum, pulses, vegetable oil, and nutrition supplements, enough food to feed nearly 1.5 million severely food insecure people for one month. According to the agency, assistance is still being provided in non-conflict-affected areas of eastern Sudan and will be resumed in Al Jazirah as soon as conditions allow. As of the end of November, WFP reported reaching 1.8 million people with food aid, cash transfers, and nutrition assistance. The expansion of the conflict compounds extremely challenging conditions for humanitarian assistance delivery in both the southeast and in hard-to-reach areas of Greater Kordofan or Greater Darfur, including threats, roadblocks, financial exploitation, politicization, looting, and bureaucratic hurdles. 


    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal calendar for a typical year in Sudan

    Source: FEWS NET


    Updated Assumptions

    Revisions to the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET's most likely scenario for the Sudan food Security Outlook for October 2023 to May 2024 include:

    Conflict: 

    • Peace efforts are likely to continue stalling despite regional, international, and local attempts to revive negotiations.
    • The battle for Khartoum is likely to continue in the coming months, though at reduced levels on intensity given the RSF’s reluctance to assault remaining highly fortified SAF positions. Instead, the RSF is likely to move to siege tactics, blockading or partially blockading bases and civilian neighborhoods deemed as vital to SAF logistical and supply lines. The SAF is expected to continue to utilize air and heavy ordinance assets. 
    • Following the expansion of conflict into Al Jazirah state, RSF is likely to push to consolidate control across the state and into Sennar and White Nile. The emergence of this new front in the war increases the risk of conflict moving further east into Gedaref and Kassala in the medium-term.   
      • Given lack of restraint parties to the conflict have demonstrated to date in the looting of public and private property and assets, including food, the expansion of the conflict into these highly productive areas will likely result in large market supply losses, with particularly high concern for national food stores. 
    • Following the collapse of remaining SAF forces in Geneina, Zalingei, El Daein, and Nyala of Greater Darfur, is it likely that the RSF will amass forces and attempt to seize control of El Fasher. In the event that RSF manages to capture El Fasher (moderately likely through May 2024), a significant increase in the targeting of non-Arab communities by the RSF can be expected, given the recent alignment of previously neutral non-Arab militias with the SAF in a bid to defend El Fasher. The fall of El Fasher to the RSF would also allow the latter to concentrate forces for a further push into Greater Kordofan.  
      • The RSF’s offensive since October on SAF positions in Babanousa (West Kordofan) is expected to pave the way for the RSF’s consolidation of control over West Kordofan.  
      • Similarly, further RSF pushes on El Obeid are likely, especially following the RSF’s capture of the SAF’s 22nd Infantry Division’s base in al-Mojlad (West Kordofan). 
    • Abdelaziz al-Hilu’s SPLM-N will continue to leverage the situation by opportunistically pushing to consolidate control over South Kordofan and eastern parts of West Kordofan. However, SPLM-N operations are likely to remain limited in geographic scope and are unlikely to extend beyond their traditional stronghold.

    Projected Outlook through May 2024

    During December and January 2024, the harvest season, food insecurity outcomes are expected to be atypically elevated and rising. The steep increase is primarily due to the impact of the recent expansion in fighting to the southeast that has disrupted harvesting in the breadbasket of the country and resulted in large-scale displacement and re-displacement, putting the ever-increasing burden on host communities. In addition, the fighting along the new front has further contributed to the destruction of major infrastructure and disruption of basic services, trade routes, and markets, as well as access to main livelihood options for most affected people. Continued unabated looting is causing widespread impoverishment of populations in RSF-attacked areas. The continued fighting and attacks on main producing centers are expected to result in below-average harvests, with some significantly below-average harvests in areas affected by heavy fighting. Many poor households will face reduced access to agricultural wage labor and self-employment income opportunities due to below-average harvest and reduced mobility. Staple food prices are anticipated to remain atypically high, driven by increased disruption to markets and trade flows, below-normal harvest, high production, transportation, and fuel costs, and persistently high inflation and local currency depreciation. As a result, most of the country will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through January 2024. Urban localities affected by continued severe fighting, including Omdurman, Jebel Awlia of Khartoum; Wad Madani of Al Jazirah; El Geneina, Nyala, Zalingei, El Fasher, and Um Keddada of Greater Darfur; and El Obeid of North Kordofan will continue to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through January. 

    February to May 2024 typically covers the post-harvest period (February and March) and the beginning of the lean season in April. However, the lean season is expected to start atypically early in most areas, driven by conflict-related reductions in food availability, disruptions to trade flows and prices, decreasing income-earning opportunities, as well as expected increases in displacement in many areas. In particular, the anticipated expansion of conflict further into Sudan’s breadbasket area is likely to cause significant disruptions to harvesting and trade flows, with significant implications for national food stocks and food availability. As a result, widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected across most of the country, with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes persisting through May 2024 in the most heavily conflict-affected areas in Khartoum, Greater Darfur, and Greater Kordofan; parts of Al Jazirah, Blue Nile, and White Nile; in areas of Kassala and Red Sea affected by poor production amid poor purchasing power and very high prices; and among the displaced. 


    Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Sudan Food Security Outlook Update December 2023: Expanding conflict and displacement drive even higher needs during the harvest, 2023.

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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