Thank you for this opportunity to brief the Security Council.
Well before the latest developments in Sudan, humanitarian needs in Darfur, and other parts of the country, were already growing due to the economic crisis. People who have been receiving humanitarian assistance now require greater support. The broader population has also been affected by the worsening economy and there is a risk that more people slide into greater vulnerability and poverty.
The direct impact on humanitarian operations from the recent political events has so far been limited, and regular operations have continued. This includes a major campaign to vaccinate children against polio and measles being carried out in South Darfur and other states. However, the humanitarian community is monitoring the situation closely.
We are very concerned about the protection of civilians, particularly in Darfur, where localized fighting continues. Reports of incidents of violence involving internally displaced persons – including internally displaced persons killed in Kalma camp in South Darfur on 13 April – are worrying. In addition, the start of the school year in Darfur, scheduled for 1 April, has been delayed, impacting education and services tied to school attendance.
The economic crisis in Sudan has had a significant impact on humanitarian needs and operations, including in Darfur. This includes rapid currency devaluation, rampant inflation, increasing prices for food and medicine, a marked decline in purchasing power and intermittent shortages of daily bread and fuel supplies. The World Food Programme reports that the price of sorghum is 70 per cent higher compared to the same time last year, impacting people’s purchasing power to a staple food.
According to the latest analysis, 5.8 million people are presently food insecure, up from 3.8 million the year before. This includes 1.9 million people in Darfur. With the start of the lean season in May, the number will increase.
Shortages of imported commodities have also impacted healthcare and other services. According to the Central Bank of Sudan, imports of medicine in 2018 dropped by a third compared to 2017. With increases in costs of medical services ranging from 50 to 100 per cent, households are less able to afford healthcare and are more vulnerable to health risks. Shortages of food and high prices also worsen protection risks, as people turn to negative coping mechanisms, and fewer children attend school. Women and the elderly continue to be particularly affected as households are prioritizing food for their children.
This situation adds to what were already high and longstanding humanitarian needs. There have been significant improvements in security in recent years, with some people displaced by conflict returning home. Yet 1.9 million people remain displaced by conflict, over 1.6 million of them in Darfur, and many of them have been displaced for well over a decade. Hundreds of thousands of children in Darfur are acutely malnourished. In Central, East, North, and South Darfur, less than half of the population has access to clean water. The World Food Programme reports that a growing proportion of internally displaced and refugee populations – already among the most vulnerable – cannot afford enough to eat.
For these reasons, and thanks to the generous contributions of the Member States, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund last week allocated US$ 26.5 million, to assist vulnerable people in areas which have seen some of the largest increases in food insecurity linked to the economic situation, including in East, North, South and West Darfur. The Sudan Humanitarian Fund is also providing over $ 20 million in complementary funding.
But more support is needed. This year, humanitarian partners are appealing for $1.1 billion to assist 4.4 million of the most vulnerable people, which represents a bit more than half of the overall needs identified in the country, including 2.4 million people in Darfur. Humanitarian needs and response requirements will also be reviewed in the coming months to reflect the ongoing impact of the economic situation, as well as any impact that may emerge from the current political events.
Sustaining humanitarian support is particularly important as there continue to be significant constraints on longer-term development assistance for Darfur and other parts of Sudan. Without expanded social safety nets, the ongoing economic situation will have serious consequences. Greater support for development activities is needed, alongside scaled up Government investment in crucial services such as social protection.
The situation in Sudan also has implications for the broader region. I would like to recognize the Government’s generosity in hosting refugees, including nearly 150,000 South Sudanese in Darfur, and hope that this support continues. Sudan has also been a vital route for the provision of humanitarian assistance – particularly food aid – into South Sudan. With critical life-saving assistance to be provided in the coming days and weeks, we hope the Government will continue to facilitate these movements.
Ensuring that the most vulnerable are supported requires sustained humanitarian access to all people in need. Recent years have seen significant improvements. Partners are able to move more easily and to assist people in more areas, particularly in Jebel Marra. However, we continue to call on all parties in Sudan to allow the humanitarian community to assist people in need. We also call on the Government to take further measures to improve the operating environment for humanitarian organizations, especially by lifting of bureaucratic impediments to movement, and to facilitate impartial needs assessments and protection activities.
At this critical time, it is essential to ensure that the people of Darfur and the rest of Sudan receive the assistance and the support they need.