A handout photograph, shot in January 2024, shows women and babies at the Zamzam displacement camp close to El Fasher in North Darfur, Sudan. OSV News photo/Mohamed Zakaria, MSF handout via Reuters

As women, children starve, Sudan in desperate need of help, say Catholic aid workers

By  Tonny Onyuolo, OSV News
  • April 29, 2024

Catholic agencies, along with other Christian charities in Sudan, have intensified their food distribution campaign across the country to save hundreds of thousands of suffering Sudanese people from extreme hunger as the civil war entered its second year.

The agencies are urging the international community to include the suffering people of Sudan among its priorities even as they attend to the needs of victims of violent conflicts in other regions of the world.

"As we speak, the situation is dire, and the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate rapidly," said Telley Sadia, country representative for Sudan for the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, or CAFOD. "We are helping wherever we can, but urgent action is needed to avert the looming famine because women and children are starving, and they need immediate help."

The northeastern African nation of more than 46 million people erupted into a bloody civil war a year ago as a result of a power struggle between the generals that head the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces following the ouster of longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

The war, which was initially concentrated in Khartoum, the country's capital, spread quickly to other parts of the country, including Darfur. One year on, the conflict has displaced more than 8.6 million people from their homes, including 1.8 million refugees, according to figures from the United Nations. The organization also reports that over 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and half the country's population needs life-saving assistance.

The U.N. has called the war "a crisis of epic proportions."

Sadia confirmed to OSV News that the "situation was now unbearable" in the country since the majority of people are currently struggling to find food to eat, and children are dying from malnutrition. She urged the international governments "not to abandon the people of Sudan" and to provide $2.7 billion to help address the crisis that has left millions needing urgent assistance.

"People are going through trauma and staring at the looming famine they have never experienced before," she said, calling for an immediate cease-fire. "They have no way to come out of this situation; thus, there's a need to increase lifesaving food aid and allow humanitarian access to save the lives of women and children."

Caritas Internationalis, a family of 162 national Catholic relief and development agencies working across the world, has said the situation in Sudan is increasingly dire as the majority of families in their homes and those in camps for internally displaced persons, or IDP camps, were starving for fear of venturing out for food due to deteriorating security.

They noted that Sudan requires a lot of international humanitarian support to save millions of people from the looming famine.

"We appeal urgently for much greater international humanitarian support to mitigate the enormity of the suffering of the people," Caritas said in their April 15 statement marking the first anniversary of the Sudanese war.

"We urge the international community not to abandon the people of Sudan despite the focus on conflicts elsewhere," the organization said.

Caritas said a lack of enough funding from the international community has prevented both secular and faith-based organizations working in the country from reaching out to more people facing starvation and serious disease outbreaks, including cholera.

Caritas called for an immediate cease-fire between rival military factions to prevent the loss of innocent lives and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe on a larger scale.

"We also call for much more assertive and coordinated international engagement in seeking increased humanitarian access (including facilitation of cross-border operations from Chad and South Sudan), diplomatic solutions to achieve an urgent ceasefire, and an end to a conflict that has now created the world's largest hunger crisis in 2024," the organization said.

Pope Francis has, on several occasions, called for an immediate end to violence in Sudan, saying the ongoing fighting was worsening the humanitarian situation in the country.

"Unfortunately, the situation in Sudan remains grave, and therefore, I renew my appeal for an end to the violence as soon as possible and for a return to the path of dialogue," he said April 23 after the "Regina Coeli" prayer at the Vatican. "I invite everyone to pray for our Sudanese brothers and sisters."

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