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."



For Palestinian Athletes, the Olympics is About More than Sports

Omar Ismail — who has visited relatives in Jenin — believes his mere participation symbolizes something larger than himself (The AP)
Omar Ismail — who has visited relatives in Jenin — believes his mere participation symbolizes something larger than himself (The AP)
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For Palestinian Athletes, the Olympics is About More than Sports

Omar Ismail — who has visited relatives in Jenin — believes his mere participation symbolizes something larger than himself (The AP)
Omar Ismail — who has visited relatives in Jenin — believes his mere participation symbolizes something larger than himself (The AP)

Most of the athletes representing the Palestinian territories at the Paris Olympics were born elsewhere — Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Germany, Chile and the United States — yet they care deeply about the politics of their parents’ and grandparents’ homeland.

They are eager to compete but say their presence at the Games isn’t only, or even primarily, about sports. With Israel and Hamas locked in a brutal war that has killed tens of thousands in Gaza, these eight athletes — two of whom hail from the West Bank — carry heavier burdens.

Yazan Al Bawwab, a 24-year-old swimmer who was born in Saudi Arabia and lives in Dubai, said he doesn't expect recognition for his performance in the pool. He uses swimming, he said, as a "tool for Palestine.”

“Unfortunately, nobody has ever asked me about my races. Nobody cares,” said al Bawwab, whose parents come from Jerusalem and Lod, a city that today is in central Israel. “I’m going to be plain and honest: France does not recognize Palestine as a country. But I’m over there, raising my flag. That’s my role.”

Omar Ismail, who was born in Dubai to parents who come from the West Bank town of Jenin, has loftier athletic ambitions. Shortly after earning his spot on the team at a taekwondo qualification tournament in China, the 18-year-old said he aims to win a gold medal in Paris.

But even if he does not earn a medal, Ismail — who has visited relatives in Jenin — believes his mere participation symbolizes something larger than himself, The AP reported.

“I represent the identity of the people in Palestine, their steadfastness,” Ismail said. “I’d like to inspire the children of Palestine, show them that each of them can achieve their goals, give them hope.”

Even under the best of circumstances, it is difficult to maintain a vibrant Olympics training program in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Nine months of war between Israel and Hamas has made that challenge next to impossible.

Much of the country’s sporting infrastructure, clubs and institutions have been demolished, said Nader Jayousi, the technical director at the Palestine Olympic Committee.

“Do you know how many approved pools there are in Palestine? Zero,” said al Bawaab, who noted that the Palestinian economy is too small and fragile to consistently support the development of elite athletes. “There is no sports in Palestine. We are a country right now that does not have enough food or shelter, and we are trying to figure out how to stay alive. We are not a sports country yet.”

The Palestinian diaspora has always played an important role at the Olympics and other international competitions, Jayousi said.

Jayousi said it’s not the first time that most of the athletes representing the POC come from abroad. He said the Palestinian diaspora is always represented at any big international sporting competition and Olympics.

More than 38,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war between Israel and Hamas began, according to local health officials. Among those who died were about 300 athletes, referees, coaches and others working in Gaza's sports sector, according to Jayousi.

Perhaps the most prominent Palestinian athlete to die in the war was long-distance runner Majed Abu Maraheel, who in 1996 in Atlanta became the first Palestinian to compete in the Olympics. He died of kidney failure earlier this year after he was unable to be treated in Gaza and could not be evacuated to Egypt, Palestinian officials said.

Only one Palestinian athlete, Ismail, qualified for the Paris Games in his own right. The seven others gained their spots under a wild-card system delivered as part of the universality quota places.. Backed by the International Olympic Committee, it allows athletes who represent poorer nations with less-established sports programs to compete, even though they did not meet the sporting criteria.

“We had very high hopes that we would go to Paris 2024 with qualified athletes,” Jayousi, the team's technical director, said. “We lost lots of these chances because of the complete stoppage of every single activity in the country.”

Palestinian athletes will compete in boxing, judo, swimming, shooting, track and field and taekwondo.

There is a chance Palestinian athletes could compete against Israelis in Paris. The Israel Olympic Committee said it is sending 88 athletes to Paris, and that they would compete against athletes from anywhere.

Jayousi declined to say whether clear guidelines have been issued to Palestinian athletes about whether they would be expected — as a form of protest against the war in Gaza — to drop out of competition rather than face Israelis.

“Let's see what the draws will put our athletes against," he said. “We know what we want to do, but we don't have to say everything that we want to do.”

One Olympic hopeful who did not make the cut was Gaza-born weightlifter Mohammed Hamada, a flag bearer at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. When the war began, Hamada moved to Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah and trained there for 25 days. But because of the shortage of food, Hamada — who competed in the 102 kilograms (225 pounds) weight class — gradually lost about 18 kilograms (40 pounds).

Hamada eventually secured a visa to leave Gaza and moved to Qatar to continue his training. But, Jayousi said, he just couldn't get his body back to Olympic-level condition.

Jayousi said winning medals is not the top priority for the athletes who made it to Paris. (No Palestinian athlete has ever won an Olympic medal).

“We are going here to show our Palestinianism,” he said. “We are focused on fighting until the last second, which we have been doing as a nation for the last 80 years.”

Al Bawaab said he wants to empower the next generation of Palestinian athletes, in part by providing them with greater financial resources. He founded the Palestinian Olympians Association to help athletes prepare for sports and life beyond, including by providing them with mental-health support.

"We don’t have that sports culture yet,” al Bawaab said. “When I’m done swimming, we’ll hopefully get that rolling in the country. But you have to be safe first.”