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Outbreak of conflict in urban areas, greater Darfur is driving rapid escalation in needs

  • Key Message Update
  • Sudan
  • April 2023
Outbreak of conflict in urban areas, greater Darfur is driving rapid escalation in needs

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The ongoing conflict that erupted on April 15th following the breakdown of security sector reform negotiations between the Chairman of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the leader of the Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (widely known as “Hemedti”), has led to a rapid deterioration in food security conditions, particularly in major urban areas and across Greater Darfur. The swift and unanticipated disruption to trade and market functionality, household mobility, humanitarian assistance, and basic service provision, including healthcare, banking, electricity, transport, and communication, has left millions of people facing critical shortages of food, water, and basic supplies, including in dense urban areas and in greater Darfur, which hosts a large share of displaced and acutely food insecure people.

    • Before the outbreak of conflict, Sudan already faced a high burden of food insecurity given the exceedingly high cost of living amidst the persistence of poor macroeconomic conditions and intercommunal conflict. While the current fighting has not yet spread to rural areas, the likely ripple effects of trade disruptions and price increases in rural areas – particularly at a time when food stocks are already declining and market dependence is increasing – are expected to further exacerbate food consumption gaps and cause an increase in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes across the country as it heads into the typical lean season period from June to September. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely to increase among populations that are already acutely food insecure and have low coping capacity, rendering them highly vulnerable to the direct and indirect impacts of the ongoing conflict on food security conditions.

    • While a 72-hour ceasefire from Tuesday morning to Thursday night facilitated the evacuation of foreign nationals and the flight of thousands of civilians, it was marred by continued heavy fighting, particularly in Omdurman of Khartoum and Ag Geneina in West Darfur. As of Friday morning, April 28th, the ceasefire was extended an additional 72 hours, but fighting has again resumed. A more consequential resolution to the conflict is highly unlikely in the near term as long as there remains a lack of willingness on either side to negotiate. In Darfur, reports of the rising armament of civilians and intensification of armed clashes raise further serious concerns about the risk of a resurgence in ethnic violence in the region.  

    • The healthcare system has been severely affected by the fighting, which is likely to contribute to increase in the disease burden and prevalence of malnutrition. In Khartoum, the Ministry of Health reported that only one in four health facilities is fully functional and 40 percent is partially functional. In addition, the treatment of approximately 50,000 acutely malnourished children was disrupted due to the conflict. Power outages have impacted the cold storage of pharmaceutical and medical supplies, leading to critical shortages and damaging vaccine stocks. Combined with a lack of access to clean drinking water, the risk of disease spread and implications for malnutrition is highly concerning. In addition, a recent report from the World Health Organization indicates a high risk of biological hazard as a laboratory was seized in Khartoum, with workers unable to gain access and power cuts threatening the management of its materials.

    • Trade, market, and banking functionality in affected urban areas continue to be disrupted amidst the ongoing fighting. In Khartoum and surrounding areas, a few markets are sporadically open, but prices have skyrocketed as supply dwindles and demand spikes amidst household depletion of food, water, and essential items. At the same time, household ability to purchase is increasingly undermined by lack of access to their bank and mobile money accounts. In Ag Geneina of West Darfur, reports of market destruction and widespread looting similarly point to likely reductions in food supply and access. This price escalation comes on top of already elevated prices, poor macroeconomic conditions, and poor purchasing power. For example, the average price of sorghum in February was already nearly double the same time last year and over four times higher than the five-year average. While updated price data is not yet available and while currently there is no indication of rapid devaluation, FEWS NET expects the SDG to devaluate further as demand for foreign currency increases and there is lower confidence in the SDG in local and global markets.

    • The suspension of humanitarian assistance by WFP and humanitarian partners continues as the threat to the lives of staff remains elevated under current conditions, including perceived lack of restraint on the part of RSF soldiers in targeting humanitarian workers. Humanitarian facilities have reportedly been looted with serious implications for potential delivery if and when assistance provision is resumed. Food assistance in Sudan has typically prioritized the internally displaced, refugees, and seasonally food insecure populations throughout the country and is usually scaled up during the lean season. In its absence, the 3.7 million internally displaced population -- which includes an estimated 3 million people in Darfur region alone, plus more than 75,000 recently displaced -- and the most food-insecure households in rural areas are likely facing a sharp increase in the severity of their food consumption gaps. In addition, tens of thousands of the estimated 1.3 million refugees hosted within Sudan are being newly displaced, with an estimated 33,000 fleeing Khartoum to neighboring states within Sudan and 10,000 South Sudanese refugees returning to South Sudan. Furthermore, an estimated 20,000 Sudanese have crossed into Chad, but estimates of arrivals into Egypt, Central African Republic, and Ethiopia are currently unknown.

    • Given the rapidly evolving situation and direct impacts to FEWS NET’s in-country staff, FEWS NET is still undertaking its analysis of likely changes to current and projected acute food insecurity outcomes in terms of the mapped IPC Phase classifications. At a minimum, FEWS NET anticipates that a prolonged suspension of food assistance will most likely result in the deterioration of outcomes by at least one IPC Phase in areas where food assistance was previously assessed to be preventing worse outcomes, especially in greater Darfur, parts of greater Kordofan, and parts of greater Nile. More broadly, FEWS NET anticipates a sharp, rapid increase in the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, with the largest increases anticipated in densely populated urban areas such as Khartoum and the greater Darfur region.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Sudan Key Messages April 2023:  Outbreak of conflict in urban areas, greater Darfur is driving rapid escalation in needs, 2023.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level 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. Learn more here.

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