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The situation for Sudan’s most vulnerable children is so desperate that half of the most severely malnourished youth are expected to die without urgent humanitarian intervention, UN agencies said on Friday.

“As we speak today, 650,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. If left untreated, half of them will die,” said Mandip O’Brien, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative in Sudan, highlighting what veteran aid workers described as an unprecedented crisis.

Sudan’s recent growing problems stem from a military coup in October 2021 that suspended international funding for aid operations and forced UN aid teams to halve rations in some cases.

Ongoing political “upheaval” has also weakened government support structures for struggling families, who have had to contend with soaring food prices and inter-tribal violence, said the UN World Food Program (WFP) Sudan director Eddie Rowe.

Growing hunger

“At the moment, WFP has predicted that around 15 million people will go hungry every day since the beginning of the hunger season, and we are now making an assessment because according to our figures, this could rise to 18 million by the end of this month” he said.

“We is still struggling with an increase in inter-tribal conflict and violence, and this has actually spread now not only in Darfur, but also in other parts of the country… The war in Ukraine also had a significant impact. All this in the context of the country’s political instability led to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis this year.”

Solidarity with Sudan

In a call for the international community to “show solidarity with the children of Sudan”, UNICEF’s Mandeep O’Brien said the crisis reflects much more than food shortages, with severe shortages of basic health services, clean water, sanitation and education.

“Routine immunization is unfortunately declining in Sudan. In the period from 2019 to 2021. the number of children who did not receive a single dose of the life-saving vaccine doubled,“, she told journalists in Geneva.

The rapid rise in the cost of living

Echoing this concern, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sudan, Axel Bishop, warned that the cost of living for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sudan has “increased dramatically.”

This was due to “the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme weather from the climate crisis,” he said.

“There is Sudan today hosts about 1.1 million refugees“, the UNHCR representative explained, noting that new intercommunal clashes this year, as well as arson and looting of villages, markets, houses and livestock in Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile states, have displaced more than 177,000 people.

“We have too about 3.7 million internally displaced people. And, as my colleagues pointed out, the humanitarian crisis, which is effectively turning into a food crisis, affects marginalized communities, including refugees and IDPs.”

Funding deficit

The level of humanitarian funding for all three agencies remains well below the level needed to provide effective preventive support. The fear is that if promises are not made soon, the cost of responding to much more serious situations will be much higher.

Illustrating the extent of the funding shortfall, by September 13 UNHCR had received just one-third of the $348.9 million are needed this year to respond effectively and provide life-saving assistance and protection in the face of growing needs.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN News.

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