Veteran humanitarian, Dominic MacSorley, has witnessed firsthand some of the worst hunger crises in the world over his 40 year career, and today he is in the midst of another one in the embattled nation of Sudan. Despite this, he remains hopeful that an end to mass hunger is not beyond reach.
A nation paralyzed
I’ve been waking up every morning in Port Sudan to security alerts on my phone, telling me where the latest fighting is taking place across the country and whether it is safe or even possible for Concern to work. It’s a daily reminder of the risks faced by the Concern Sudan team in their relentless drive to support communities caught up in conflict.
My work for Concern takes me to places, often neglected internationally, but where humanitarian needs are at alarming levels. There are few countries where this is more evident than in Sudan.
Nine months of intense conflict have forced 7.4 million people to leave their homes, more than any other conflict in the world. It has paralyzed the country, disrupted the movement of humanitarian aid, and increased rates of hunger to catastrophic levels.
Food production has been devastated. Entire towns and villages have been forced to leave their home and their land in search of safety. Farmers are unable to grow food to provide for their families and communities.
"The price of wheat, a main staple in Sudan, is up 118%"
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the area farmers planted this year was 15% smaller than the average for the past five years, and production of key staples sorghum and millet fell by 24% and 50% compared to 2022.
In the markets of Kadugli, South Kordofan, where Concern is working, the price of wheat, a main staple in Sudan, is up 118% compared to March 2023.
The recent upsurge of fighting in Al Jazeera state — the bread basket of Sudan — has displaced hundreds of thousands more people and heightened fears of even greater food insecurity across the country.
This conflict has especially impacted Sudanese women, who are being robbed of their access to livelihoods and also their right to safety. Even before this current conflict broke out in April, more than three million women and girls in Sudan were at risk of gender-based violence and these rates have since skyrocketed.
In the words of Martin Griffiths, the UN emergency relief coordinator: “It is unconscionable that Sudan’s women and children — whose lives have been upended by this senseless conflict — are being further traumatized in this way. What we are witnessing in Sudan is not just a humanitarian crisis; it is a crisis of humanity.”
Sudan is experiencing its highest number of hungry people on record. And it’s getting worse.
Urgent action is needed on two fronts. The international community — especially those countries with the greatest influence — must use their power to stop the fighting and safeguard humanitarian operations.
"The destabilization of a strategically important country like Sudan serves nobody’s interests."
Secondly, humanitarian agencies need more money to reach more people. The 2023 UN appeal for $2.7bn may seem like a lot, but in reality, it’s small change to big economic players, and the human cost of underfunding is unthinkable.
Even from a clinical political perspective, the destabilization of a strategically important country like Sudan serves nobody’s interests.
And it’s not just Sudan. Today, 85% of the world’s hungry live in conflict zones where the basic human right to adequate food is violated on a daily basis.
Gaza and Ukraine have been most prominent in the public eye but they form only a fraction of the 117 million people experiencing acute food insecurity as a result of conflict in 19 countries and territories, including the Central African Republic, the Central Sahel, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
We are now living with a series of concurrent and long-term crises that, without action, will continue to fuel global hunger and human suffering. Already, a staggering one in 10 people across the world go to bed hungry every night. Here in Africa, the numbers jump to one in five people, more than twice the global average.
It's all possible
The question is whether this new reality is becoming our new normal. It should never be — the preventable death of any one child should never be normalized and yet in places like Sudan the very survival of 700,000 children who suffer from severe acute malnutrition is under threat, appears to go largely unnoticed.
"Famine itself is a declaration of failure"
Famine, something we thought consigned to history, is making a comeback. Famine itself is a declaration of failure, a failure to prevent, to mobilize resources, a failure of political will.
As far back as 1963, US president, John F Kennedy said: “We have the ability, as members of the human race, we have the means, and we have the capacity to eliminate hunger from the face of the earth in our lifetime. We need only the will.”
This was 60 years ago and despite the fact that the early warning systems and the resources to eliminate hunger truly exist, we are failing every child that needlessly dies of starvation.
A world without hunger is possible. What we are missing is the investments and political will to drive a new global partnership that brings the collective strengths of affected communities together with donors, the public, non-government organizations, governments, and the private sector to implement solutions at scale.
It’s all possible. In short, we can eradicate hunger if we make it a global priority.
Dominic MacSorley has been working with Concern Worldwide since 1982 and has served in various positions all over the world, including as Global CEO for ten years. Dominic was appointed in January 2023 as Humanitarian Ambassador for Concern Worldwide. His responsibilities include senior level engagement with key donors and policy makers, including with USAID, InterAction, and representing the organization at the United Nations. He is currently on secondment as Interm Country Director for Sudan.