Razed Markets, Food Factories Show Sudan’s Looming Hunger Crisis

Food manufacturing sites have been destroyed, aid warehouses looted and markets razed in Sudan’s five-week conflict, according to satellite imagery analyzed by Bloomberg, fueling a growing humanitarian crisis that has left roughly 20 million people in need of assistance.

(Bloomberg) — Food manufacturing sites have been destroyed, aid warehouses looted and markets razed in Sudan’s five-week conflict, according to satellite imagery analyzed by Bloomberg, fueling a growing humanitarian crisis that has left roughly 20 million people in need of assistance.

The United Nations expressed hope that vital international aid for Sudan that has been blocked since April 15 will be delivered this week as a seven-day cease-fire takes hold between the country’s two warring generals. But the destruction of Sudan’s food supply chain — from the factory that produces 60% of its therapeutic infant food to key urban markets — has experts warning of dire economic consequences and a breakdown in the country’s social fabric.

“Destroying infrastructure has longer term consequences. It weakens the integrity of systems and people’s sense of security,” said Raga Makawi, a researcher on Sudan who fled the capital, Khartoum, earlier in the conflict. “It also affects people’s livelihoods on a more structural level.”

Over 1 million people have been displaced since the conflict began on April 15, fleeing to safer locations inside and outside Sudan, while at least 1,000 people have been killed. 

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Compounding an already dire situation in Khartoum and cities across the Darfur region — the two epicenters of the conflict — are attacks targeting food factories and civilian marketplaces. Flour, milk and bread producers have also stopped working.

On May 10, the Samil Industrial Co., the country’s biggest infant food manufacturer, was looted and burned to the ground, satellite images provided by Planet Labs show. Shortly after fighting erupted in April, the food market near the town of el-Fasher in northern Darfur was destroyed. 

Another market in Omdurman, which neighbors the capital, burned in a massive fire on May 15, satellite images and videos posted on social media show.

The UN has said about $2.6 billion is needed to implement its humanitarian response plan for nearly half Sudan’s 45 million population. Currently foreign aid is being held up by systematic looting and debilitating administrative delays, with supplies stranded at neighboring countries’ airports. 

UN flights have been denied clearance, while some aid workers haven’t been given visas, according to three humanitarian officials who asked not be identified as they don’t have authorization to speak publicly.

“It’s getting more and more difficult to get supplies in Khartoum,” said Germain Mwehu, coordinator for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sudan. “There is a fear among humanitarian agencies regarding the looting of warehouses and offices.”

Since May 11 when the paramilitary Rapid Support Force and Sudan’s army agreed to uphold aid access and protect civilians, there have been at least 11 attacks against humanitarian facilities in Khartoum, and four against health facilities, according to the UN. 

On Wednesday, as an uneasy calm appeared to take hold around the capital despite sporadic artillery fire in some areas, many UN agencies were still awaiting clearance for flights into the country and for convoys to leave the coastal city of Port Sudan. A panel of US and Saudi monitors were verifying alleged breaches of the cease-fire, a State Department spokesperson said in Washington on Tuesday.

Since the latest pact was signed “there is a lot of hope,” Abdou Dieng, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, said by phone. “We are getting ready to take the opportunity of this week to scale up our operation and try and assist the population.”

–With assistance from Fasika Tadesse and Gina Turner.

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