Failed planting season poses imminent risk to Sudan's food security

15 May 2023


  • Women and girls are disproportionately affected by hunger in Sudan, according to analysis by CARE
  • 11 million people or 25% of the population experienced hunger even before the current crisis
  • With 61% of health centres in Khartoum closed, women risk their lives to access treatment

With over 600 people dead, 5,100 injured, approximately 730,000 displaced, and few health centres operational, the dire situation in Sudan is getting worse.

The conflict threatens the planting season which is set to begin at the end of May. If the season is missed, the number of people going hungry — 11 million or 25 percent of the population prior to the current crisis — will increase.

Before the conflict, one in four people in Sudan went to bed hungry. This additional threat to Sudan’s food system will impact women the most, a reality underscored by a recent analysis by CARE Sudan.

David Macdonald, CARE Sudan Country Director, said,

“With the ongoing crisis, women are eating less. Before the current crisis, 42% of households headed by women had less food compared to 31% of male-headed households. Women are key in the food production chain and with current fighting, they can’t access the farms and agricultural inputs to produce food, leaving families and communities unable to get food. The conflict needs to end for Sudanese farmers to confidently return to their fields to support not only their families but also the wider community.”

Sudan has the highest rate of child malnutrition globally. More than three million children under five are malnourished and more than 610,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. These numbers have been on the rise, specifically in areas with increased cases of violence. This poses a great risk to the country’s next generation, especially as those severely malnourished may be unable to access health centres.

In Khartoum, 61% of the health centres have been closed, and currently, only 16% are operating normally. This has put a major strain on those with sick family members. With a protracted conflict, CARE is also concerned that the small gains made in the protection of women and girls, especially against gender-based violence, will be lost.

Nadia*, a Khartoum resident, lives with her mother who has asthma and diabetes. The ongoing conflict has had devasting effects on Nadia’s family as they need to seek constant healthcare for her mother. Nadia said,

“When the fighting broke out, we had to flee from where we used to live and settled close to a health centre as there are only a few operational health facilities. They are not only understaffed and understocked but also face huge power outages, thus causing stored medicines to get spoiled. As a woman, it is scary to go out as I fear being caught in the crossfire, harassed, assaulted, or even raped.”

Hiba*, a Khartoum resident, said:

“It is still unsafe in Khartoum to go out - especially for women - to search for food, water, and health services as we are afraid of being attacked, looted, or harassed. Now, I am trying to stay safe with my family by sheltering at home and trying to avoid shelling and crossfire. The majority of the health facilities are not working or damaged. A friend of mine had an emergency delivery for premature birth on the 8th month and it was tough and risky to go out and find an operating health facility. Immediately after delivery, my friend was asked to leave the hospital as it not safe for her and her baby. We need peace and we need it now.”

Sudan’s farmers faced many challenges even before the onset of the conflict, from limited access to farm inputs and dilapidated transport and market infrastructure to extreme climate change impacts such as droughts and floods. These factors have contributed to low agricultural productivity and hindered efforts to achieve food self-sufficiency in Sudan. The lack of food has a direct impact on pregnant and lactating mothers as they are undernourished, contributing to an increase in malnutrition rates among children.

David Macdonald said,

“As the conflict approaches the one-month mark, we continue to call for unhindered access for humanitarian workers. Humanitarian organisations are unable to operate effectively as the tools of war continue to rage on. Families are unable to feed themselves as they cannot reach their farms and land or even get enough food from the stores. Communities are being forced to flee due to the conflict. Sudan needs lasting peace and cannot afford to miss this planting season.”

*Names changed to protect identity.

The Rapid Gender Analysis Policy Brief: Sudan Conflict Response, May 2023, can be accessed here.

Media enquiries

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Notes to editors

  • CARE has been operating in Sudan since 1979, implementing humanitarian and development programmes focused on women’s and girls’ empowerment, gender justice, humanitarian action, and resiliency.
  • CARE Sudan continues to work in four of the six regions with existing programmes. As of 12th May, 80% of CARE’s operations were ongoing. CARE Sudan continues to run therapeutic feeding programmes for children and support pregnant and lactating mothers in 47 health centres in East Darfur, Kassala, Gedaref, and South Darfur. In some of the same regions, CARE supports over 5,000 women with seed, farm inputs, fertiliser, and animal husbandry.

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