Ukraine war's impact on wheat threatens hunger in Sudan: Aid group

AFP , Monday 21 Mar 2022

More than 80 percent of Sudan's wheat imports are at risk after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, an aid group warns, exacerbating economic and humanitarian crises that deepened after last year's military takeover.

Employees backage freshly baked bread at a bakery in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on March 17, 2022. AFP

Fighting and sanctions have disrupted grain shipments from Russia and Ukraine, which between them account for nearly 30 percent of global wheat exports, threatening hunger and social upheaval in many countries.

The impact will be especially severe in Sudan, one of the world's poorest countries, where a military takeover in October brought fresh turmoil and saw Western donor countries cut aid.

"Sudan is in a particularly vulnerable position because 86-87 percent of its wheat imports is coming from Russia and Ukraine combined," said David Wright, chief operating officer at charity Save the Children.

By the end of the year, he said in a Khartoum interview with AFP, UN data is warning of "almost 20 million people, or almost half the country, being food insecure".

The northeast African country was 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 farmland there into battlefields and agricultural workers into soldiers while freezing shipments abroad through port cities that have become combat zones.

Exports from Russia have meanwhile been frozen by sweeping international sanctions, constraining global supplies of food staples such as wheat, barley and corn as well as fertiliser and sharply raising their prices.

'Bad situation exacerbated' 

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," said Wright.

In December, the United Nations 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, said Wright.

"The people who get the worst effects are living on the margins," he added, especially Sudan's 3.3 million internally displaced people in the restive Darfur region and elsewhere.

The country 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," he said.

"But what we are worried about is that it will suck a lot of the money out of the global humanitarian system."

Short link: