An aid group, Save the Children, has warned that more than 80 percent of Sudan’s wheat imports are at risk following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the already worsening economic and humanitarian crises that deepened after last year’s military takeover.
Fighting and sanctions have disrupted grain shipments from Russia and Ukraine, which between the two nations (Russia and Ukraine), accounts for nearly 30 percent of global wheat exports. The situation, the group said is beginning to threaten hunger and social upheaval in many countries.
According to the aid group, the impact will be especially severe in Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, where a military coup on October 25, 2021, led by Army Chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, brought fresh turmoil and saw Western donor countries cut aid.
Chief Operating Officer at Save the Children, David Wright, revealed that “Sudan is in a particularly vulnerable position because 86-87 percent of its wheat imports is coming from Russia and Ukraine combined”.
Wright, in an interview, revealed that UN data is warning, “almost 20 million people, or almost half the country, being food insecure” by the end of the year 2022. The northeast African country is already reeling from international aid cuts and economic turmoil which saw the local currency plummet and prices of food, fuel and electricity skyrocket.
Sudan, a country where a rise in bread prices sparked the turmoil and mass rallies that led to the 2019 ouster of veteran President, Omar al-Bashir, has already seen a 10-fold increase in bread prices in recent months. Now, the almost month-old Ukraine conflict has turned farmlands into battlefields and agricultural workers into soldiers while freezing shipments abroad through port cities have also become combat zones.
Meanwhile, exports from Russia have frozen due to international sanctions, constraining global supplies of food staples such as wheat, barley and corn as well as fertiliser and sharply rising prices.
Adding more salt to injury
David Wright pointed to the fact that Sudan’s “confluence of events”, political turmoil, violent unrest in far-flung regions and the deep economic crisis, are causing “a real exacerbation of what was already a bad situation”.
In December 2021, the United Nations (UN) estimated that nearly one-third of Sudan’s population, or more than 14 million people, would need humanitarian assistance in 2022.
Families may also “resort to negative coping strategies” including forcing children out of school or marrying off young girls, says Wright. “The people who get the worst effects are living on the margins”, especially Sudan’s 3.3 million internally displaced people in the restive Darfur region and elsewhere.
According to the UN, Sudan also hosts more than one million refugees who escaped conflicts in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and other countries, according to UN figures.
Wright also warned that aid directed to humanitarian needs in Sudan and elsewhere may be affected by the rising needs in war-torn Ukraine.
“It’s great to see the solidarity expressed, with Europeans helping fellow Europeans. But what we are worried about is that it will suck a lot of the money out of the global humanitarian system.”David Wright, Chief Operating Officer at Save the Children