Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Famine Watchdog Projects 756,000 Sudanese Face Starvation in Coming Months

This picture taken on June 20, 2023, shows a charity kitchen providing food for the displaced at a camp in Wad Madani, the capital of Sudan's al-Jazirah state. (Photo by AFP)
This picture taken on June 20, 2023, shows a charity kitchen providing food for the displaced at a camp in Wad Madani, the capital of Sudan's al-Jazirah state. (Photo by AFP)
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Famine Watchdog Projects 756,000 Sudanese Face Starvation in Coming Months

This picture taken on June 20, 2023, shows a charity kitchen providing food for the displaced at a camp in Wad Madani, the capital of Sudan's al-Jazirah state. (Photo by AFP)
This picture taken on June 20, 2023, shows a charity kitchen providing food for the displaced at a camp in Wad Madani, the capital of Sudan's al-Jazirah state. (Photo by AFP)

An estimated 756,000 people in Sudan could face catastrophic food shortages by September, according to a preliminary projection used by United Nations agencies and aid groups to determine whether to officially declare a famine.

The preliminary results, as of June 1 and seen by Reuters, reflect a rapidly deteriorating situation in the war-torn country. The most recent previous projection, released in December, showed that 17.7 million people, or 37% of the population, faced high levels of food insecurity, but none were considered in a catastrophic situation.

Now, an estimated 25.6 million people, or 54% of the population, face critical shortages, including more than nine million people in an emergency situation or worse.

The latest projection is preliminary and could change. It will require approval by the military-controlled Sudanese government and UN and international agencies. The government has previously denied the country is experiencing famine.

The new analysis was done by the Rome-based Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), an initiative of UN agencies, regional bodies and aid groups. The data is expected to be incomplete. In March, the IPC said security threats, roadblocks and telecommunications outages in Sudan were hindering its ability to do assessments.

The IPC, which analyzes food insecurity and malnutrition data, hopes to publish a report on Sudan in the next several weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.

Fatima Eltahir, a Sudanese government official who is also the IPC’s chairwoman in Sudan, told Reuters: “We are not done yet. There are no final results.”

Lavonne Cloke, an IPC spokesperson, said the analysis is “ongoing,” adding that it’s not yet clear when it will be finalized.

The latest projection for Sudan comes at a time when another conflict zone – Gaza – is also experiencing severe food shortages. In March, the IPC said famine was imminent as 1.1 million people, about half of Gaza’s population, were expected to experience catastrophic food insecurity.

In Sudan, fighting broke out in the capital Khartoum in April 2023 and quickly spread across the country, reigniting ethnic bloodshed in the western Darfur region and forcing millions to flee. The number of people internally displaced in Sudan due to current and past conflict has surpassed 10 million, the United Nations migration agency said this week. The country is already experiencing the world’s largest displacement crisis.

Last month, UN agencies also said Sudan was at "imminent risk of famine.” About 3.6 million children are acutely malnourished, according to a joint statement by UN chiefs, including the high commissioner for human rights.

Whether a famine will be declared in Sudan remains unclear. Governments sometimes challenge famine data and projections. To date, UN agencies and other organizations only have declared famines twice since the IPC warning system was created 20 years ago: in Somalia in 2011, and in South Sudan in 2017.

The determination of whether to declare a famine is based on a scale used by the IPC that has five classifications, ranging from Phase 1, which reflects no serious food issues, to Phase 5, which represents either a catastrophe or, even worse, a famine. Phases 3, 4 and 5 are all considered crisis situations or worse.

The ratings are determined using a complex set of technical criteria, which include measurements of starvation, malnutrition and mortality. In areas formally designated as Phase 5 famine, more than two people per 10,000 are dying daily, among other criteria.

The latest preliminary IPC projection for Sudan states that between June and September, an estimated 756,000 people in Sudan will face Phase 5 catastrophe. This means that the country hasn’t technically reached widespread famine conditions, but it is still considered a major crisis.

The projection identified 32 localities and clusters where the population was suffering catastrophic food shortages. They included two areas where 15% of the population faced IPC 5 catastrophic conditions – the city of al-Fashir, the capital of North Darfur; and a nearby camp for internally displaced people called Zamzam. Three other areas were cited where 10% of the population had reached the threshold.

Many of the areas in the projection were seized by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which has been fighting the Sudanese army.

On Tuesday, a top US diplomat told Reuters that parts of Sudan are already in famine, adding that the extent of extreme hunger remained unclear.

"I think we know we are in famine," said Tom Perriello, the US special envoy to Sudan. "I think the question is how much famine, how much of the country, and for how long."



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Climate Change Imperils Drought-Stricken Morocco’s Cereal Farmers and Its Food Supply

 A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)
A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)
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Climate Change Imperils Drought-Stricken Morocco’s Cereal Farmers and Its Food Supply

 A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)
A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)

Golden fields of wheat no longer produce the bounty they once did in Morocco. A six-year drought has imperiled the country's entire agriculture sector, including farmers who grow cereals and grains used to feed humans and livestock.

The North African nation projects this year's harvest will be smaller than last year in both volume and acreage, putting farmers out of work and requiring more imports and government subsidies to prevent the price of staples like flour from rising for everyday consumers.

"In the past, we used to have a bounty — a lot of wheat. But during the last seven or eight years, the harvest has been very low because of the drought," said Al Housni Belhoussni, a small-scale farmer who has long tilled fields outside of the city of Kenitra.

Belhoussni's plight is familiar to grain farmers throughout the world confronting a hotter and drier future. Climate change is imperiling the food supply and shrinking the annual yields of cereals that dominate diets around the world — wheat, rice, maize and barley.

In North Africa, among the regions thought of as most vulnerable to climate change, delays to annual rains and inconsistent weather patterns have pushed the growing season later in the year and made planning difficult for farmers.

In Morocco, where cereals account for most of the farmed land and agriculture employs the majority of workers in rural regions, the drought is wreaking havoc and touching off major changes that will transform the makeup of the economy. It has forced some to leave their fields fallow. It has also made the areas they do elect to cultivate less productive, producing far fewer sacks of wheat to sell than they once did.

In response, the government has announced restrictions on water use in urban areas — including on public baths and car washes — and in rural ones, where water going to farms has been rationed.

"The late rains during the autumn season affected the agriculture campaign. This year, only the spring rains, especially during the month of March, managed to rescue the crops," said Abdelkrim Naaman, the chairman of Nalsya. The organization has advised farmers on seeding, irrigation and drought mitigation as less rain falls and less water flows through Morocco's rivers.

The Agriculture Ministry estimates that this year's wheat harvest will yield roughly 3.4 million tons (3.1 billion kilograms), far less than last year's 6.1 million tons (5.5 billion kilograms) — a yield that was still considered low. The amount of land seeded has dramatically shrunk as well, from 14,170 square miles (36,700 square kilometers) to 9,540 square miles (24,700 square kilometers).

Such a drop constitutes a crisis, said Driss Aissaoui, an analyst and former member of the Moroccan Ministry for Agriculture.

"When we say crisis, this means that you have to import more," he said. "We are in a country where drought has become a structural issue."

Leaning more on imports means the government will have to continue subsidizing prices to ensure households and livestock farmers can afford dietary staples for their families and flocks, said Rachid Benali, the chairman of the farming lobby COMADER.

The country imported nearly 2.5 million tons of common wheat between January and June. However, such a solution may have an expiration date, particularly because Morocco's primary source of wheat, France, is facing shrinking harvests as well.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization ranked Morocco as the world's sixth-largest wheat importer this year, between Türkiye and Bangladesh, which both have much bigger populations.

"Morocco has known droughts like this and in some cases known droughts that las longer than 10 years. But the problem, this time especially, is climate change," Benali said.