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UN's FAO Unveils Emergency Plan to Assist 10 Million Sudanese Amid War

FILE - A child carries bags with bread as he walks in a street in Khartoum, Sudan, on June 20, 2023.
FILE - A child carries bags with bread as he walks in a street in Khartoum, Sudan, on June 20, 2023.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, has launched a plan to assist at least 10 million Sudanese farmers, herders and fishermen across 17 states. The 12-month program aims to address the threat of food insecurity in the country, which has been exacerbated by a five-month-old armed conflict.

The FAO will add to recent seed distribution efforts to enhance food production, with the hope of feeding 13 to 19 million people in coming months.

Abdulhakim Elwaer, FAO regional representative for the Near East and North Africa, said the Emergency Livelihood Response Plan is designed to combat hunger and poverty in Sudan.

"The ELRP aims to mitigate the impact of the recent conflict on vulnerable people, address their immediate needs, and enhance their ability to recover and strengthen their resilience, besides achieving food security at its minimum level for the overall population," Elwaer said. "Agriculture remains a lifeline in Sudan."

Sudan plunged into conflict in April, sparked by a power struggle between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces.

The conflict has killed thousands of people, displaced millions, and prompted millions more to seek refuge in neighboring countries in search of food, medicine and shelter.

Mohamed Abdulrahman, a farmer in Sudan's Upper Nile State, expressed optimism about the assistance.

"I think this will help us and others be encouraged to look for and seek such kind of help and organize themselves," he said. "But the condition is demanding; seriously, the Sudanese people need help from the international community because they lost their government."

Aid agencies say during Sudan's dry season, which runs from November to May, farmers reliant on rainfall face food shortages, while livestock owners are faced with water and pasture shortages, leading to threatened livelihoods.

According to Integrated Food Security Phase (IPC) projections published last month, more than 20.3 million Sudanese are food insecure, with six million suffering from emergency levels of acute hunger.

Abdulrahman said that Sudanese farmers use seeds to produce food, but also require so much more.

"I don't think that's enough because the farmers need more than the seeds," he said. "They need money to make the preparations. They need money to continue with other agricultural activities."

The FAO said that much of the support for the vulnerable farming and herding households will be delivered through cash assistance and livelihood input packages, including seeds and agricultural, animal and fishing tools.

Elwaer said the successful execution of their plan could prevent a humanitarian crisis and famine in Sudan.

"FAO does not supply food directly to individuals, but supplies seeds and agricultural inputs to farmers who are actually food producers to thousands of people," he said. "So if we reach out to 1.5 million farmers in Sudan in 14 states, we are literally providing food supplies, mainly vegetables and fruits and seeds like corn and wheat, for the large population of Sudan by the next harvest season, which will mitigate the situation and the crisis to a large extent."

The agricultural agency said it needs $123 million to achieve its goals, with the program expected to end in August 2024.