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- Humanitarian needs remain atypically above average as the harvest season approaches, driven by six months of continuous conflict primarily between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected through the projection period with some areas in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), notably in localities with urban centers that have been main hotspots of conflict across Greater Darfur, Greater Kordofan, and Khartoum. Of highest concern are conflict-affected people in El Obied of North Kordofan, Nyala of South Darfur, El Geneina of West Darfur, and among the urban populations in Khartoum, particularly in Omdurman, given the severe disruption to livelihoods and continued inadequate humanitarian assistance since mid-April.
- In October, the two main belligerents have continued to vie for control over the strategic sites in the main urban centers of Khartoum, Nyala, of South Darfur, and El Obeid of North Kordofan, with sporadic fighting continuing in Zalingei of Central Darfur and Al Fasher of North Darfur. El Geneina of West Darfur has remained relatively calm following the local ceasefire in early September but is nonetheless highly volatile. Clashes have also reportedly spread into some smaller towns and rural areas of Greater Kordofan and Greater Darfur. According to the IOM, displacement as a result of the current crisis has surpassed any other displacement crisis globally, with 4.5 million internally displaced and an additional 1.2 million displaced to neighboring countries.
- Harvests are expected to be below average and below that of last year, with localized areas proximate to areas of heavy fighting experiencing significantly below-average harvests. While cumulative rainfall for the June to September rainy season was broadly average to above average, localized irregularities in the temporal and spatial rainfall distribution, combined with persistently above-average temperatures, have aggravated conflict-related impacts on production. Rural areas close to heavily affected urban centers across Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan, as well as parts of the semi-mechanized and irrigated sectors, have reported variably below-normal cultivation at the start of the season, below-average crop production through the duration of the season, and often the inability to harvest due to the conflict.
- The price trends for key staple foods continue to vary across the main markets in Sudan driven by the impact of the ongoing conflict and insecurity on market functionality and trade flows, anticipated below-normal performance of the main agricultural season, as well as declines in household purchasing power due to the conflict. In the east, price increases are subdued relative to the more cut-off areas of the center and west. Prices are expected to remain atypically high in the post-harvest period despite the arrival of the harvest as the conflict continues to disrupt trade and market functionality.
Conflict and displacements: After six months of fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), food security conditions have severely deteriorated across the country. The widespread destruction of property, looting of assets and food, and unrestrained violence and targeting of civilians that has characterized the conflict are continuing to deeply undermine household access to income and food sources around the country. In heavily hit urban areas, markets have been periodically damaged and looted, local economies and trade flows have been severely disrupted, thousands have been killed, and millions have been displaced, leading to the most severe deterioration in food insecurity outcomes. The impacts in rural areas continue to be more indirect but nonetheless consequential. In areas in close proximity to contested cities or where ethnic tensions have risen, the fear of violence and insecurity is to varying extents limiting household mobility to engage in crop cultivation and access typical income sources. In addition, major routes from east to west remain critically insecure, reducing trade flows to markets in the west and sustaining atypically high prices in the harvesting period.
Fighting has continued unabated in Khartoum as both sides increased aerial bombardment of downtown areas in August and September in efforts to gain full control over the remaining strategic sites. In Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan, there has been increasing military engagement of other armed groups, even as SAF and RSF continue to battle for control of the main cities around the region. The rise in active military operations by militias is further fracturing the region along ethnic lines, intensifying insecurity that threatens lives, displaces thousands, and greatly restricts household mobility and capacity to engage in livelihood activities or access adequate food and income sources (Figure 1).
In West Darfur, a tentative ceasefire since early September between SAF and RSF in El Geneina is largely holding although tension remains high and there have been incidences of continued violence in neighboring localities that has displaced more to Chad and continues to threaten the fragile peace. In total as of 22 October 2023, approximately 442,250 Sudanese refugees have been registered in Chad, crossing at 32 entry points along the eastern Chad-Sudan border. The sharpest influx was recorded between May and July, with the rate slowing considerably in August through October.
The timing of the violence and displacement in El Geneina locality of West Darfur during peak land preparation and cultivation periods is expected to have significantly disrupted planting and thus likely to result in little to no harvests for many households in the most affected areas. By contrast, violent conflict has intensified in Nyala of South Darfur, while conditions in Zalingei of Central Darfur and El Fasher of North Darfur remain highly volatile with sporadic eruptions of intense fighting. Similarly, El Obeid of North Kordofan and Kadugli of South Kordofan have remained highly volatile with on-and-off fighting between SPLM-N Al Hilu, SAF, and RSF. In South Kordofan and Blue Nile, clashes between SPLM-N and SAF have led to widespread looting and destruction of markets, infrastructure, and basic service facilities and have constrained engagement in livelihood activities. In the eastern portions of the country, insecurity is mainly taking the shape of a rise in tribal clashes, petty crime, and looting.
According to the IOM, displacement as a result of the current crisis has surpassed any other displacement crisis globally, with over 5 million displaced – 4.5 million internally and an additional 1.2 million displaced to neighboring countries. Internally, the vast majority (over 3 million of the 4.5 million) have been displaced from Khartoum, with most arriving in 7 states in the east and center. There has also been considerable displacement within the Darfur region, characterized by movement within each state respectively, except in East Darfur which has seen comparably little conflict and has absorbed displacement mostly from Khartoum and South Darfur. According to the UNOCHA-Sudan, most of those that have fled over the borders have arrived in Chad (over 440,000), South Sudan and Egypt (over 300,000 each), followed by Ethiopia and Central African Republic (CAR) (between 20-40,000 each).
In the last week of October, the two sides resumed talks in Jeddah, led by the United States and Saudia Arabia in partnership with representatives of the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The aim is similar to previous talks, limited to brokering a ceasefire and ensuring unhindered humanitarian access. Optimism for its success, or any more substantial political solution, is low in light of the publicly reinforced hardline positions emanating from both sides in recent weeks, as well as the establishment of competing governance structures in areas under their respective control.
2023/24 agricultural season progress: While no national-level assessment of the progress of the season is yet available, FEWS NET expects that harvests will be below average and below that of last year based on key informant reports and analysis of available satellite imagery in key areas. Conflict-related impacts on production include delayed and reduced access to finance from the Agricultural Bank of Sudan (ABS) due to service interruption since the start of the conflict; shortage, high cost, and limited access to inputs, including labor; high fuel costs; inadequate access to irrigation due to poor cleaning and maintenance of irrigation canals; as well as lack of access to fields in areas closer to heavy fighting. This was further aggravated by localized irregularities in the temporal and spatial rainfall distribution and persistently above-average temperatures. As a result, the cultivated area under cereals (sorghum and millet) is expected to be below average, with harvestable area likely to be further reduced due to ongoing volatility in the conflict that is interfering with access to cultivated fields.
In Al Jazirah state, available data on cultivated area extent in the Gezira and Rahad schemes suggest a reduction of at least 20 percent in the cultivated area in the Gezira scheme with a larger decrease of up to 35 percent observed in the smaller Rahad scheme compared to the five-year average (DataQ, October 2023). Additional FEWS NET/USGS analysis of vegetative health over these schemes estimates that about one-third of the cultivated area has moderately to significantly lower vegetative greenness compared to last year (measured as at least -0.1 NDVI lower than 2022), while one-quarter of the cultivated area showed moderately to significantly better vegetative greenness (+0.1 NDVI higher than 2022) (Figure 2, left). Given reduced access to and high costs of inputs including fuel, it was anticipated that households would shift from semi-mechanized to traditional rainfed systems, with implications for yields, although little data is available yet to assess the extent of this shift. FEWS NET/USGS analysis of vegetative health (NDVI) indicates large areas between Al Fao (outside the Rahad scheme) and Wasat Al Gadarif localities have significantly lower vegetative health compared to the same period in 2021, potentially indicative of reduced cultivation (Figure 2, right). In Al Fao and Wasat Al Gadarif, about half of the cropland indicated moderately to significantly lower NDVI values than 2021 (at least -0.1 NDVI difference). In Gala’a Al Nahal locality further south, about 25 percent of cropland had a moderate to significant negative difference, while 20 percent had moderately to significantly positive difference compared to 2021 (Figure 2, right).
Across most of the traditional rain-fed sector spanning from While Nile across Greater Kordofan and through Greater Darfur, available field information suggests that the season has also been significantly impacted by the fighting at variable times during cultivation, crop production, and harvesting. In areas affected by the direct confrontations between SAF and RSF and between SPLM-N and SAF in South Kordofan particularly, reductions in area planted have been observed, with concerns that it may be more widespread. In rural areas proximate to urban centers with heavy fighting across Greater Darfur, cultivation is expected to be significantly below average. However, verification of cultivated areas via analysis of currently available satellite imagery is complicated by the inability of NDVI to discern between crop growth and vegetative growth in fallow fields, particularly given above-average rainfall in large parts of Greater Darfur. Additional analysis shedding light on cultivated extent across the country is anticipated towards the end of the year.
*Note that the differences in comparison year (2021 for Gadarif and 2022 for Gezira scheme) were due to cloud cover; white spaces are non-croplands per World Cover Croplands
Source: FEWS NET/USGS using Landsat - 30m resolution/ESA World Cover Croplands (10m)
Desert Locusts: According to the October 2023 Desert Locust Bulletin, late-instar hopper groups, small bands, and a few immature adult groups and swarms were present in the summer season from east of Atbara River to the Red Sea Hills between Derudeb and Haiya in September. Scattered hoppers, immature, and mature solitarious adults were seen west of the Nile Valley in the Bayouda desert, Karima, and Abu Hamed. Along the Red Sea coast, some scattered mature solitarious adults and groups were seen near Toker. A few scattered adults and groups were observed near Derudeb and Toker. Control operations treated 1477 ha and, overall, the situation is assessed as calm. Summer seasons will finish in the interior during October and November as locusts move to the red sea coast where winter breeding will start during the second half of October. The laying and hatching of the first generation will cause locusts, including some groups, to increase in November.
Macroeconomy: While the official exchange rate at commercial banks has worsened from 625 Sudanese pounds (SDG) per United States dollar (USD) in September to 728 SDG/USD in October, the parallel exchange rate has more rapidly deteriorated, significantly expanding the gap between the parallel market and commercial bank rates (Figure 3). Since April, the parallel market rate has decreased by 42 percent, from 550 SDG/USD to 950 SDG/USD. The sharp deterioration in the value of the SDG is driven by the relative increase in demand for USD hard currencies amid an increasingly unregulated exchange market. Demand has risen due to partial re-opening of Sudan’s airspace, the resumption of commercial flights from Port Sudan airport, and a rising demand for the import of essential requirements, such as medicines, agricultural inputs, and fuel amid domestic shortages caused by fighting around the El Obeid and Khartoum refineries.
Source: FEWS NET, data from almashhadalsudani.com
A significant decline in consumer activity is still being seen across the country due to the extent of the damage and disruption to businesses in Khartoum and other industry and trading centers across the country as well as the depth of lost assets, revenues, and income sources among households. The government and much of the private sector have been unable to pay employee salaries consistently since the start of the fighting six months ago. Employment in other sectors, such as health, education, and trade has also shrunk, particularly with the exodus of many elites and skilled business personnel. Additionally, the government continues to see reductions in revenue due to the disruptions to exports of essential commodities such as crude oil, gum Arabic, livestock, and oil crops (sesame, sunflower, and groundnuts) which have been impacted by the disruption to trade routes.
Trade flow and market functionality: Key trade routes and market functionality around the country remain seriously disrupted due to conflict and insecurity, with no significant changes since FEWS NET’s June Food Security Outlook. The main routes into and out of the capital, Khartoum, remain mostly inaccessible. Routes from Port Sudan down to El Gadarif, Sennar, and Madani, face some disruption and reduced activity from Port Sudan down to El Gadarif, Sennar, and Madani, but deteriorate further south into Blue Nile and parts of White Nile.
The primary routes from central Sudan to Greater Kordofan and Greater Darfur and all routes between Darfur states also remain severely disrupted due to ongoing insecurity. Incidents of looting, banditry, and the proliferation of formal and informal checkpoints along routes has led to significantly elevated security risks for drivers and companies, increases in journey time, and as a result, increases transaction costs associated with the travel that are passed on to the consumer. For example, in late September 2023, a convoy protected by Darfur Joint Forces took eight days to travel 920 kilometers from Kosti to El Fasher, a journey that should normally take just under a day.
In terms of imported wheat, Sudan was projected to face a deficit of 3.5 million tonnes of wheat for 2023, up from 2.7 million tonnes imported in 2022 due to a reduction in domestic wheat production last agricultural season. According to available data, monthly wheat imports through Port Sudan have declined considerably since the start of the conflict in April (Table 1). Additional informal imports are expected to be arriving across the borders with Egypt and Ethiopia, but quantities are typically low and no data is available on the current volumes. At the moment, however, no major wheat and wheat flour shortages have been reported in the country, most likely due to increase in supply from domestic carry-over stocks and a decline in demand, particularly given the impact of the conflict on Khartoum, a major consumer of wheat products.
Source: Plant Quarantine department – Plant protection General directorate – Federal Ministry of Agriculture
Staple food prices: The price trends for key staple foods continue to vary across the main markets in Sudan driven by the impact of the ongoing conflict and insecurity on market functionality, trade flows, and household purchasing power, combined with anticipated below-normal performance of the main agricultural season. Sorghum prices increased sharply in most markets between July and August and remained at similar levels into September, with the notable exception of Kadugli market of South Kordofan and Nyala market of South Darfur. In Kadugli, retail prices for sorghum increased 20 percent between July and August followed by an additional 54 percent increase between August and September 2023 due to the recent clashes between SPLM-N and SAF that disrupted market supplies and market functionality. In Nyala, sorghum prices steadily escalated during the period of heaviest fighting before declining slightly between August and September. Overall, prices remain significantly elevated compared to pre-conflict (March) in heavily affected or inaccessible areas such as Omdurman market in Khartoum; Kadugli and El Obeid markets in the Kordofans; and El Fasher market in North Darfur, while remaining largely stable in the northeast and southeast (Figure 4). Nationally, the average sorghum price in September was 15-20 percent higher than last year (September 2022), and 238-370 percent higher than the five years average.
Source: FEWS NET, data from Food and Agricultural Market Information System (FAMIS)
Wheat prices have remained relatively stable in the country’s main wheat production markets of El Damer and Dongola, albeit at high levels (635-833 SDG/kg) due to the relatively better harvest from the last March/April 2023 harvest, the availability of carry over stock from prior years’ production, and reduced demand given household substitution with other cereals and declining purchasing power. By comparison, wheat prices have increased in the heavily hit markets of Kadugli and Khartoum, up 118 and 87 percent respectively compared to March 2023 (1250 SDG/kg and 1121 SDG/kg, respectively). On average, September wheat prices remained 30-45 percent higher than in September 2022 and 250-400 percent higher than the five-year average.
Livestock prices: Animal flows from the main production areas and markets, several of which are located in Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan in western Sudan, have become increasingly difficult amid the continued fighting and risks of looting. As a result, livestock retail prices have generally followed three divergent patterns, as illustrated in Figure 5 – in supply markets such as Ad Damazin, El Fasher, and El Obeid (green shades), livestock prices have atypically stayed stable or declined since the outbreak of the conflict due to the reduced functionality of markets, continued closure of the animal trade routes, and reduced access to export even as body conditions improve with the progression of the rainy season, a factor that typically contributes to rising prices in the local and export markets. In areas of typically high demand, such as the main consumption markets of Omdurman, Rabak, Sennar, and Madani markets (brown shades), livestock prices have continuously escalated since the start of the conflict in April as supplies to these markets have been significantly disrupted by the closure of the animal trade routes. However, in some less conflict-affected consumption or terminal markets of El Gadarif, Kassala, Port Sudan, and El Damer (blue shades, dashed lines), livestock prices that spiked in the early months after the conflict have subsequently declined during the last three months as some suppliers and traders were able to partially recover the supply change through alternative markets and trade routes. In El Obeid, livestock prices saw a slight improvement in prices between August and September due to temporary improvement in flows to Omdurman market – goat and sheep prices improving 25 and 16 percent respectively – however, this followed on 4 months of steep declines.
Source: FEWS NET, data from Food and Agricultural Market Information System (FAMIS)
Compared to the pre-conflict period of March 2023, goat prices remained relatively stable across most of the monitored markets in Sudan, instead of increasing as is typical, driven by declining demand for exports. Compared to the same time last year (September 2022) and to the five-year average, goat prices were on average 33 and 139 percent higher, sheep prices were 37 percent and 119 percent higher, and cattle prices were 27 and 116 percent higher in September 2023. However, it should be noted that the above average animal prices compared to last year and the five-year average also reflecting the continued high inflation and local currency devaluation.
Terms of Trade: Labor-to-sorghum and goat-to-sorghum terms-of-trade (TOT) serve as proxies for household purchasing power and indicate the quantity of sorghum that households can buy with either a day’s labor wage or the sale of a medium-sized goat. The labor-to-sorghum TOTs, as measured in El Gadarif and Kassala, have remained largely stable in September 2023 due to atypically stable sorghum prices and wage rates, despite weeding and harvest periods (Figure 7). The prolonged violence has interfered with typical labor patterns in which laborers from western Sudan and across international borders (South Sudan, Ethiopia) migrate to southeastern Sudan to participate in the summer agricultural season. This year, the flows have been lower at the same time that demand has been reduced in many places due to below-average cultivation and the projected below-average harvest.
In main supply markets such as El Obeid, the goat-to-sorghum terms-of-trade saw sharp deterioration since the outbreak of the conflict due to the disruption in livestock markets and rising sorghum prices. While the trend reversed slightly in September in El Obeid market due to the increase in goat prices, overall, the goat-to-sorghum TOT has declined by 47 percent between March and September 2023 as a result of to 13 percent reduction in goat prices while sorghum prices rose by 61 percent (Figure 6). September 2023 level of goat-to-sorghum was only 2 percent lower than last year but 44 percent lower than the five-year average.
Source: FEWS NET, data from Food and Agricultural Market Information System (FAMIS)
Humanitarian food assistance: According to the Sudan Humanitarian Update of 19 October 2023, intensified fighting across Sudan, looting, fuel shortages, and rising criminality, combined with a lack of commitment by belligerent groups to facilitate aid, continue to be significant barriers to humanitarian partners’ ability to provide humanitarian assistance where needed most. After six consecutive weeks of postponement of the movement of supplies going to Darfur and Kordofan states due to ongoing fighting in El Obeid and poor road conditions between Tendelti in White Nile and Wad Ashana in North Kordofan, a convoy finally left Kosti bound for El Fasher on 18 October. Over the past week, thanks to the cross-border response from Chad, 133.56 MT of humanitarian aid were transported by eight trucks to West Darfur (El Geneina, Ardamata, and Kulbus) and Zalingei in Central Darfur. Overall, despite various challenges, a total of 163,875 metric tons (MT) of relief items on 3,551 trucks have been delivered to Darfur, Kordofan, and other states since 22 May 2023. Among these, 65,612 MT (1,553 trucks) were for distribution, 97,593 MT (1,968 trucks) were for prepositioning, and 670 MT (30 trucks) were intended for both distribution and prepositioning.
Malnutrition: As widely documented, the conflict has caused extensive destruction and disruption to health, water, and sanitation facilities and services, disruption in access to food and income, and large-scale displacement, all factors that are expected to be contributing to deteriorating health and nutrition conditions. Diseases outbreaks have been increasingly reported at alarming levels that are further aggravating the situation – as of late-October, at least 1,618 suspected cases of cholera reported in 3 states of Gadarif South Kordofan, and Khartoum, 4,166 measles cases had been reported in 11 states, and 3,414 cases of dengue reported in 6 states. While data remains limited, UNICEF reported large increases in admissions of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in areas receiving high number of IDPS when compared to the same time last year. In September, the organization estimated that there were likely 3.4 million children under 5 years old acutely malnourished, of which about 700,000 were likely severely malnourished.
Current Food Security Outcomes: In October 2023, the pre-harvest season in Sudan, acute food insecurity outcomes slightly improved relative to the peak of the lean season as agricultural and agro-pastoral households particularly in the relatively secure rural areas of eastern and southeastern states began to access the green harvest from the ongoing main agricultural season, receive in-kind payments from agricultural labor and have better access to animal products (milk and meat) with the improved livestock body conditions. This has led to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in parts of El Gadarif, Sennar, Al Jazirah, and Kassala State. However, most areas in the Northern and River Nile states remained in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as wheat stocks have depleted faster than normal in advance of this year’s winter wheat cultivation season under the added strain of high levels of displacement. Winter wheat planting is expected to start in November with harvests to begin in March and is anticipated to be negatively impacted by the forecasted above-average temperatures and high costs of inputs. In parts of Blue Nile and White Nile, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist due to insecurity and high levels of displacement that have reduced crop production and disrupted trade flows into these areas.
In most of the conflict-affected areas of Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan, food security outcomes are likely to improve relative to the lean season but will remain poor amid ongoing conflict and insecurity, significantly affecting population movements. Insecurity and displacement have meant that many have been unable to access fields at critical times during the season, such as during the cultivation period, as occurred most notably in El Geneina of West Darfur, or during later weeding and harvesting periods, such as occurred around Nyala and Kadugli due to continued fighting and insecurity. As a result, a greater share of households are facing reduced access to own produced food, as well as limited access to their main livelihood and income source options. The poor macroeconomic situation, anticipated high staple food prices, and reduced physical access to markets are likely to further reduce households’ ability to meet their basic food and non-food needs. As such, most areas of Greater Kordofan and Greater Darfur are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) with considerable portion of the poor groups facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food security outcomes, particularly in localities with urban centers under attack.
In El Geneina, where some households were expected to be Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in the peak of the lean season, the reduction in conflict following the local ceasefire in early September has improved household mobility in search of food and income and enabled some humanitarian assistance to arrive in affected areas from across the Chad border. While the timing of the fighting barred households in the most heavily conflict-affected areas of El Geneina from cultivating and thus are unlikely to have any harvest, the increased access to other income sources including petty trade and self-employment, as well as community support and food assistance, is likely to have mitigated the most severe outcomes, although the area remains in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).
In Khartoum, most localities remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) with atypically high proportion of households facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in October, except in Omdurman which is assessed to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). In the latter, the deterioration is due to the persistent bombardment in this densely populated area with heavy dependence on casual wage labor that has caused severe damage to main markets and curtailed household mobility. In other surrounding localities, most populations have moved to peripheral areas with slightly improved access to food and income sources, although still poor given major disruption to typical income sources and very high food prices.
Source: FEWS NET
The most likely scenario for October 2023 to May 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions:
Conflict: Overall, peace efforts are likely to continue stalling despite continued regional and international attempts to revive negotiations.
The RSF’s capture of remaining critical objectives in central Khartoum (Al Shajara and Army HQ) would strengthen its position during negotiations and increase both SAF’s willingness to negotiate before losing more ground and the RSF’s desire to lock in its gains, increasing the likelihood for serious and bona fide negotiations in 2024. The RSF is likely to increase its de facto control over critical portions of Khartoum. However, the intensity of fighting is expected to reduce in Khartoum area towards the end of the year, with the RSF having likely gained the upper hand in the capital and SAF retaining strong positions in Omdurman.
Fighting in Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan will very likely continue as tribal and ethnic tensions escalate, and armed groups exploit the security vacuum.
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.
It is unlikely that the RSF will be able to mount offensive operations in eastern Sudan, or even conduct small-scale operations targeting Port Sudan. However, the RSF will likely continue to leverage criminal, or ethnic/tribal militias in an effort to weaken SAF control over or around Port Sudan and force SAF to maintain larger garrisons in eastern Sudan. While tensions are expected to continue to simmer between the eastern tribal groups over political differences, it is unlikely to result in inter-communal clashes given efforts by the eastern Sudanese High Native Administration Council and the Higher Beja Council (HBC) to avoid confrontations.
Macroeconomic: The expected continuation of heavy fighting within urban areas as the main hubs of trade and commerce, as well as along primary routes around the country, will continue to significantly curtail business operations and undermine job opportunities, disrupt supply chains of food and non-food commodities for both import and export, and disrupt banking systems. All of the disruptions will continue to limit people’s access to cash, further worsen the purchasing power of households, reduce consumer activity, and cause the economy to contract. Active conflict will also continue to impede the banking sector system and any progress on the exchange rate reform implementation, including managing the currency float regime and closing the fiscal and balance of payments deficits intended to lower the inflation rate. The currency is expected to continue to depreciate further and is anticipated to remain between 85—950 SDG/USD through January 2024, contributing to driving up prices of imported and locally produced goods across the country.
Crop production: The November 2023 to January 2024 harvest is expected to be below average due to the conflict-related disruption in availability of and access to finance and inputs, compounded by rainfall and climatological anomalies particularly in the southeast. In areas of heavy fighting, such as parts of Greater Darfur, localized production is expected to be significantly below average due to displacement and lack of access to farms. The disruptions in access to finance and inputs is expected to extend to the winter wheat cultivation and crop performance for November 2023 to February 2024, which is similarly expected to be below average.
Trade flow and market functionality: It is expected that routes linking Khartoum to most of the rest of the country will remain disrupted through the projection period, with periodic disruption along the only functional Dongola-Omdurman route. Routes linking Greater Kordofan and Greater Darfur to central Sudan and all routes between Darfur states will also remain largely inaccessible at least through the first half of the scenario period, most likely leading to drastically reduced market trade flows between and Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan regions. In the east, it is expected that the routes connecting Port Sudan down to El Gadarif, Sennar, and Madani will remain functional but with reduced activity and will continue to deteriorate further south into Blue Nile and parts of White Nile.
Staple food prices: The extensive destruction and/or disruption of key markets and corridors in Sudan, as well as with neighbouring South Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia, and Eritrea is expected to continue causing sporadic deliveries, limiting quantities and varieties, and driving food prices to remain above average during the pre-harvest months of October 2023. With expectations of reduced harvest given the impact of the conflict and rainfall and climatological anomalies on crop production, prices are likely to remain atypically high in the harvest and post-harvest period, October 2023 to February 2024 through the entire projection period; staple grain prices are expected to remain 50-100 percent above last year and 400-500 percent above the five-year average. Reduced income opportunities, limited cash availability, and insecurity affecting access will likely continue to reduce market demand. Access to staple food commodities in Sudan will continue to be constrained by significantly high prices, low purchasing power, and limited cash retrieval.
Livestock prices: Livestock prices are anticipated to follow mixed trends through the projection period according to the level of conflict impacts on markets and trade flows – prices will likely remain relatively stable or slightly increase in some consumption markets, while likely experiencing atypical decreases in most of the supply markets, particularly toward the start of the upcoming lean season in April and May 2024 when households will increase livestock sale to purchase food at anticipated significantly above-average food prices. The continued market disruptions resulting from the conflict and insecurity along primary and secondary routes around the country and around the main area of livestock supply, are expected to persist through the scenario period, driving market and livestock supply chain disruptions and reducing animal export activities.
Terms of Trade: Compared to the conflict period, the labor-to-sorghum terms of trade in the east are expected to continue to improve during the peak harvest between November 2023 and January 2024 as demand for labor remains strong while sorghum prices remain relatively lower than usual. The goat-to-sorghum TOT will likely remain significantly lower than the last year and the five-year average due to expectations that goat prices will remain lower than normal amid market disruptions, further reducing households purchasing ability.
Wheat imports: Sudan typically imports around 85 percent of the wheat needed to meet domestic demand. Sudan’s ability to import wheat is likely to continue to face increased difficulties through 2023 given the current ongoing conflict and economic crisis in the country that is reducing revenue, disruption import and domestic flows, and disrupting key supply chains nationwide.
Income sources: In relatively secure rural areas, poor and very poor households are likely to increase dependency on agricultural labor and sales of early maturing crops between the harvest and post-harvest periods of the summer season (between October 2023 and January 2024). Households will also increase dependency on collection and sales of firewood, charcoal, and timber as their main source of income particularly during the summer season between March and May 2024. In more conflict-affected areas, access to forest products and agricultural labor is anticipated to remain constrained by insecurity and remain below average through the projection period.
Livestock migration: Seasonal migrations of nomadic pastoralists with their animals to southern grazing areas are likely to be constrained by ongoing conflict and increased insecurity situation along most of the livestock migratory routes in western, central, and eastern Sudan. This is likely to result in an increased concentration of animals in the summer season grazing areas, resulting in overgrazing and shortages of pasture and water. The below-normal seasonal routine animal vaccination is expected to result in an increased disease incidences in areas of concentration.
Humanitarian Food Assistance: The provision of food assistance will continue to face considerable challenges amid precarious security conditions, significant looting, loss of humanitarian assets, increasing fuel and transport costs, and destruction of facilities. While humanitarians plan to scale up deliveries to 4.9 million people, achievement of this target is unlikely in the current context given the lack of sustained access to some of the most directly conflict-affected households in contested areas. Assistance is most likely to be maintained in parts of government-controlled eastern Sudan including Gadarif, Al Jazirah, Kassala, and White Nile.
Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes
Between October 2023 and January 2024, food insecurity outcomes are expected to slightly improve in some of the secure areas relative to the peak lean season period of September but remain atypically elevated. This is primarily due to the disruption to crop cultivation and expected below-average harvests, with some significantly below-average harvests in areas close to heavy conflict; reduced access to agricultural wage labor and self-employment income opportunities due to reduced mobility; and high burden of displaced persons in many areas. Staple food prices are anticipated to remain atypically high driven by below-normal harvest, high production and transportation costs, and persistent high inflation and local currency depreciation. While many areas in the relatively secure agricultural and agro-pastoral areas of southeastern Sudan and East Darfur are likely to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes, many of the more conflict-affected areas in Greater Darfur, Greater Kordofan, Khartoum, Blue Nile and White Nile states, as well as areas hosting high number of IDPs in eastern and northern Sudan, will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through January 2024. Areas with severe fighting in contested urban centers throughout Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan, including El Geneina, Nyala, Zalingei, and El Obeid, will continue to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) While Khartoum is likely to see reduced intensity of violence towards the end of the year that will facilitate greater household mobility to access food and income, needs are expected to remain high across all localities with Omdurman locality likely still in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through January 2024, before seeing some improvement to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and May.
February to May 2024 covers the post-harvest period and the typical beginning of the lean season in April. However, the lean season is expected to start early in many areas, driven by continued insecurity, below-average harvests, steep and atypically early rising food prices, and seasonally low income opportunities. As a result, widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected, with the exception of many areas of River Nile and Northern that will see improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to the arrival of the wheat harvest in March and April 2024. Parts of northern Kassala and Red Sea are likely to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food security outcomes between February and May due to poor production and pasture conditions this year that will drive earlier than normal market dependence amid poor purchasing power and very high prices. In areas that have been heavily impacted by conflict, particularly localities with urban centers across Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan, as well as in parts of Blue Nile and White Nile, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to persist. In El Geneina, conditions are expected to continue to worsen given the lack of harvests, rising prices, lost assets, and limited income opportunities. While Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are not expected to emerge in this projection period, it is likely that without a scale up of assistance, severe outcomes will emerge in the lean season (June to September 2024).
Events that Might Change the Outlook
|Impact on food security outcomes
|The parties reach an agreement on and commit to abide by a ceasefire with support from international actors and adherence by all armed groups within the country and agree to an extended timeline for a return to civilian rule.
|This will likely bring the fighting to a stop, reduce political tensions, restore security in the conflict areas, and allow displaced people to return to their homes. In the medium term, this will allow the Sudanese economy to reintegrate with the global market, likely gradually improving the macroeconomic conditions, albeit slowly. A return to peace will also improve household access to income as households return to their typical livelihoods, improving household purchasing power. Conflict-affected areas will likely improve to area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.
|The fighting between SAF and RSF continues at sustained heavy levels in Khartoum and extends to most parts of the country, with extensive and significant escalation in tribal and ethnic tensions and the involvement of other national and international parties through the end of the projection period.
|This will likely result in increasing displacement with more people seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Additionally, sustained heavy fighting and an escalation in tribal and ethnic tensions will likely result in the further destruction of infrastructure- and basic services facilities, the complete collapse of the economy, and central government control over the country. This will also further limit affected people's ability to adequately access essential food and basic services, and will likely widen the food gap among affected people, increasing the number of households facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.
Between October 2023 and May 2024, several regions will be areas of concern, but for this Outlook, two areas have been prioritized: the Nyala Shimal and Nyala Janoub localities, South Darfur State, Western Agropastoral Millet and Groundnuts livelihood zones and Sheikan locality and El Obeid city in North Kordofan state covering parts of Western Agropastoral Millet livelihood zone, Central Rainfed Millet and Sesame Agropastoral livelihood zone, and North Kordofan Gum Arabic Belt.
Source: FEWS NET
Conflict & Displacement: Conflict in this area of South Darfur has deep roots in herder/farmer resource disputes that were exacerbated by the longstanding Darfur conflict that erupted in 2003. Nyala, as the capital of the area, hosts one of the biggest IDP camps in Darfur established since 2004, Kalma IDP camp, that is home to over 50,000 protracted IDPs. The most severe fighting escalated from mid-June through mid-August, but continued at lower levels through September and October, slowing only in the last week of October with reports of RSF taking control of the city. In total, the contest for control of the city was responsible for the displacement of thousands, disruption of markets and trade, damage and destruction to health services, reduced access to water, electricity, and network availability, reduced access to work opportunities as well as to land for farming, and limited access to banking services affecting household financial access to food. Total displacement in the state due to the current conflict was estimated at 668,715 people as of mid-October.
2023/24 Agricultural Season: The start of clashes coincided with the beginning of the preparation for the main summer season cultivation in and around Nyala. Access to fields for agricultural practice activities over the course of the season was also subsequently interrupted, further aggravated by an increase in banditry incidence and sporadic intercommunal clashes in the peripheries of Nyala localities. Indeed, key informant reports estimated that area planted was considerably below average – the shortage and high prices of agricultural inputs and labor, plus a lack of access to cash, have widely limited farmers ability to cultivate even in the relatively accessible farms in the area. While cumulative rains as of the end of September were comparable to last year, some dry spells and localized flooding were also reported. No official estimation on the area planted in Nyala are available for the current season, however FEWS NET/USGS analysis of satellite imagery of an area to the south of Nyala indicates large differences in vegetative health between 2022 and 2023 (nearly half of the cropland in this area was moderately to significantly below 2022) and likely points to decreases in area cultivated (Figure 8).
Source: FEWS NET/USGS
Staple food prices: Nyala market is one of the main consumption markets in Sudan and has faced considerable destruction amidst the heavy fighting, including burning of market infrastructure, loss of the market stocks, closure of the market, and disruption of market supplies. Cereal prices followed a sharp upward trend from the outbreak of the conflict through July, with the average sorghum price rising nearly 40 percent, from 267 SDG/kg before the conflict in March to 370 SDG/kg in July. In August and September, it dropped to about 320 SDG/kg (Figure 9). This atypical fluctuation is due to several factors including de-stocking by traders to reduce risk and meet their own financial needs, the reported arrival of a few supplies in some smaller markets affecting prices, and declining household purchasing ability. Millet prices similarly rose from 467 SDG/Kg in March to 622 SDG/Kg, a 33 percent increase due to a massive loss of market stock and reduced supplies. Current levels of sorghum and millet prices are on average 110 percent and 172 percent higher than the five-year average for the sorghum and millet respectively.
Livestock prices and terms of trade: Nyala is one of the major livestock markets in Darfur and has been rendered almost completely nonfunctional during to the current conflict. Small alternative markets were established in the relatively secure parts of the locality for local livestock sales, but no major supplies have been coming into these small markets. Meanwhile, local demand is significantly below normal due to declines in purchasing power.
While there is no complete set of livestock price data for the conflict period, available livestock prices from the alternative small markets in June 2023 indicated a slight drop between May and June but that prices have generally remained near their levels of March 2023 instead of seeing seasonal increases as body conditions improve. Given the atypically stability of sorghum prices in recent months and the expectation of atypically stable goat prices, the goat-to-sorghum terms of trade between June and September are expected to have remained largely stable but lower than the five-year average (Figure 10).
Livestock prices and terms of trade: Nyala is one of the major livestock markets in Darfur and has been rendered almost completed nonfunctional during to the current conflict. Small alternative markets were established in the relatively secure parts of the locality for local livestock sales, but no major supplies have been coming into these small markets. Meanwhile, local demand is significantly below normal due to declines in purchasing power.
While there is no complete set of livestock price data for the conflict period, available livestock prices from the alternative small markets in June 2023 indicated a slight drop between May and June but that prices have generally remained near their levels of March 2023 instead of seeing seasonal increases as body conditions improve. Given the atypically stability of sorghum prices in recent months and expectation of atypically stable goat prices, the goat-to-sorghum terms of trade between June and September is expected to have remained largely stable but lower than the five-year average.
Source: FEWS NET, data from Food and Agricultural Market Information System (FAMIS)
Source: FEWS NET, data from Food and Agricultural Market Information System (FAMIS)
Income sources: Very poor and poor households typically engage in agricultural labour in the months of June through August. However, the reduction in cultivation due to insecurity negatively impacted access to this income source. Similarly, access to construction labour and migratory labour in urban areas has been limited by mobility restrictions, while self-employment opportunities and petty trade have been reduced due to the closure of businesses and disruption to markets. Based on recent Outcome Analysis (OA) which assesses the size of household consumption deficits upon most likely changes to typical food and income sources, large declines in income from crop sales, livestock sales, agricultural labor and self-employment, along with anticipated declines in own food production, were identified as main drivers of an expected large consumption deficit compared to a normal year.
In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply.
Insecurity and direct clashes between RSF and SAF and tribal clashes in and around Nyala town are expected to continue through the projection period, limiting access to the main livelihood activities and reducing of access to markets within and outside the area.
Disruption of the markets and businesses in Nyala will greatly reduce wage labor opportunities for urban and peri-urban, with recovery likely to be slow at best given anticipation of continued sporadic clashes.
Below-average harvest from the ongoing main agricultural season will continue to reduce households’ access to own production and income from sale of crops, thus likely to further weaken households’ purchasing power and their access to market purchases of essential food items.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
Between October 2023 and January 2024, the conflict-affected and poor households in the area will likely continue to face increased difficulties in accessing their basic food requirements as many of them have missed the cultivation season and will have little to no harvests and have no income from the sale of crops. At the same time, their access to agricultural wage labor will be constrained by insecurity. Prices are expected to remain atypically high during this post-harvest period given below average production and trade disruptions thus further affecting household purchasing power. In this context, most households in the area will not be able to meet their household food requirements and will face increasingly large food consumption gaps and deteriorating dietary quality. As such, IDPs and conflict-affected poor households in the area will likely remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through January 2024. From February to May 2024, seasonal income opportunities such as causal and migratory labor, self-employment, and petty trade, are expected to be atypically constrained by the insecurity, and prices are expected to rise even higher, contributing to an early start to the lean season in March. As a result, the area is expected to deteriorate into Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in the period from February to May 2024.
Source: FEWS NET
Conflict: El Obeid was one of the early hotspots in the conflict and has continued to experience repeated eruptions of conflict. In early June, the city was contested for nearly 40 days with widespread disruption to power, water, trade, markets, health services, and other basic services. The conflict spilled over to El Obeid petroleum refinery which has a potential capacity of 15,000 barrels per day and used to meet the demand of North Kordofan and some of the neighboring states. Because repeated attacks and looting, the refinery is currently non-operational.
While reports from early September indicate a reduced presence of RSF within the city, sporadic clashes continue between the two belligerents and RSF along the routes in and out of the city and at the proliferation of checkpoints around Sheikan locality. The continued insecurity and presence of checkpoints have led to rising risks and costs associated with travel and trade, namely from high levies imposed by troops on any trucks passing through, increased incidents of banditry and looting, high costs for transport services, and high fuel costs. This is greatly restricting market trade and the flow of humanitarian supplies, and reducing the availability of food and basic items in the markets. In attempts to reduce the level of insecurity, the state government closed the El Obeid-Bara-Omdurman road and imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew. In addition, reports of looting have interfered with livestock movement to and from markets in the area
2023/24 Agricultural Season: High insecurity that disrupted access to fields during the typical period for cultivation, combined with reduced access to credit and services historically provided by the state Ministry of Agriculture and various supporting organizations, is expected to have reduced cultivated area in and around El Obeid. While cumulative rainfall was near-average in the locality, it was unevenly distributed temporally, with below-average rainfall particularly in August which is likely to also contribute to below-average yields. Engagement in cash crop production, such as sesame and groundnuts which is typical in this area, is expected to be below-normal due to shifts to production of cereal crops over cash crops, as well as disruptions to market flows for export.
Prices and terms of trade: El Obeid market has faced considerable loss of functionality including looting of stocks, intermittent closure of the market, and a significant increase in prices – sorghum, millet, and wheat prices rose by 30, 70, and 67 percent respectively between March and September 2023 (Figure 12).
Source: FEWS NET, data from Food and Agricultural Market Information System (FAMIS)
Significant disruption in the livestock market and trade routes in and out of the city has negatively affected animal supply chains and prices for local markets and for export flows to Egypt and the Gulf countries. Between March and September, goat and sheet prices have followed a declining trend of 7 and 18 percent respectively, with a slight improvement between August and September 2023 due to temporary improvements in market flows to Omdurman and improvement in livestock body conditions. However, between April and September, the general trend in terms of trade for herders has been one of decline.
Income sources: While this area typically relies on a diversified portfolio of livelihood activities and sources of income, most have been impacted by the prevailing conflict and insecurity that is limiting household mobility and disruption markets. Opportunities for agricultural labor have been limited by reduced access to farms; Income from the sales of livestock, cash crops, and gum Arabic are expected to be below average amid disruptions to the markets and below normal production in the case of cash crops; and income from seasonal migratory labor is expected to be reduced due to the insecurity along trade routes as well as depressed opportunities in urban centers.
In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply.
Insecurity within the city, along trade routes, and at checkpoints around the locality is expected to continue at similar levels through the projection period, limiting household ability to engage in main livelihood activities and access markets.
Sorghum projected price will range between 500 and 800 SDG per Kg, 400 – 700 percent above the five-year average, 25-100 percent above last year's average and almost the same percentages above the observed average price of sorghum at El Obeid between February and September 2023.
The level of the conflict and the flow of the trade routes will be the main factors influencing the livestock prices during the scenario period. The conflict will induce the small ruminants' prices in Sheikan locality to decrease if the military operations continue. Livestock prices are expected to further deteriorate between February and May in advance of the next lean season as livestock owners will seek to increase sales to meet basic needs.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
Between October 2023 and January 2024, poor and conflict-affected households in and around El Obeid and Sheikan locality will have limited access to own harvests given access constraints during cultivation. Access to food in the form of in-kind payments from agricultural labor during the harvest will slightly improve but will remain limited by insecurity. With prices expected to remain atypically high in the harvest period and access to typical income sources expected to be restricted by insecurity, households will have limited purchasing power and most will not be able to meet their household food requirements with increasing consumption gaps and deteriorating dietary quality. As such, IDPs and conflict-affected poor households in the area will likely be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through January 2024. From February to May 2024, household's food stocks are expected to deplete early and households will be entirely market-dependent with deteriorating purchasing power. Household's attempts to maximize seasonal migration for labor or self-employment opportunities such as the collection and sale of wood and charcoal will continue to be constrained by conflict-related restrictions on mobility. Thus conflict-affected groups are likely to face a significant income deficit throughout the scenario period. While remittances are expected to help mitigate outcomes slightly, the areas is nonetheless expected to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in the period from February to May 2024.
Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Sudan Food Security Outlook October 2023 - May 2024: High needs to persist amid continued conflict and below-average harvests, 2023.
To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.