New Study: Urgent action to enhance food aid and revitalize agriculture critical to averting looming famine in Sudan

April 12, 2024

Port Sudan, 10 April 2024 – Pervasive severe food insecurity in Sudan necessitates urgent and extensive interventions to enhance food aid, revitalize agricultural systems, and restore supply chains, to mitigate the food crisis and prevent further escalation. Preventing a looming famine also requires an immediate ceasefire, unhindered humanitarian access, and increased support for food, nutrition, health, water, and sanitation interventions, concludes a new report launched today.

The joint report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) titled "Livelihoods in Sudan amid Armed Conflict” assesses the social and economic impacts of the ongoing armed conflict on rural Sudan. The report is based on analyses of a comprehensive survey of rural households across the country that both organizations conducted from November 2023 to January 2024, including 4,504 households.

“Understanding how the armed conflict in Sudan—now reaching the one-year mark—impacts people’s lives and livelihoods provides an important foundation for targeted interventions and policy reforms to mitigate the adverse impacts of the conflict and foster long-term resilience and economic stability,” said Thair Shraideh, UNDP Resident Representative, a.i., in Sudan. “In a country where two thirds of the population live in rural areas, we prioritized focusing on rural households. We plan to complement the findings of this study with similar surveys focusing on urban households and on micro, small and medium enterprises.”

The study observes that the conflict has severely disrupted incomes of rural households and exacerbated existing vulnerabilities related to their housing and access to infrastructure and services. Most households live in inadequate housing, with disparities in access to water, electricity, and sanitation services posing additional challenges. Rural households have low access to assets, including agricultural land, which further complicates their livelihoods.

Khalid Siddig, IFPRI Senior Research Fellow and Leader of the Sudan Strategy Support Program said: “Most of the enormous challenges currently facing Sudan existed before the conflict, including household food insecurity, dysfunctional markets, and regional and gender disparities, however, the war has greatly exacerbated these chronic problems.”

The study highlights an accelerating food insecurity crisis. 59% of rural households face moderate or severe food insecurity, with highest prevalence in the states of West Kordofan, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. The study warns that a famine in Sudan is expected in 2024, particularly in the states of Khartoum, Aj Jazirah, and in the Darfur and Kordofan regions.

Rural households experiencing a decrease in income and those encountering shocks, such as illness, death, or climatic events, are particularly vulnerable to high food insecurity. The situation is most critical for rural households that have completely lost their income.

More than half of the rural households in the sample reported that their farming work was disrupted, with the highest percentage in Khartoum state, exceeding 68%, and in Sennar and West Kordofan states, both at around 63%.

The conflict has also led to severe disruptions in employment and livelihoods, resulting in widespread economic instability. A significant proportion of rural households (36.9%) experienced a shift in income-generating activities, with 15% transitioning from employment to no employment. Nationally, income has dropped for 60% of sampled households, with alarming incidences of complete income loss, particularly in conflict-affected areas, with  income reductions of over 50%.

Mass migration forced by the conflict, particularly from peri-urban to rural areas, has led to substantial income losses among migrants.  Intensity of the conflict served as a significant push factor for migration across the different states of Sudan. For example, a striking 57% of households of rural Khartoum were forced to relocate during the current conflict—the highest among all states.

The study emphasizes the necessity of coordinated efforts to mitigate the multifaceted effects of the conflict on rural communities and improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable populations, including:

  • Immediate humanitarian and food assistance for households facing severe food insecurity and income loss.

  • Urgent support to agricultural livelihoods, focusing on providing farmers with access to subsidized inputs, rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure, and training programs on resilient farming practices.

  • Restoring market functionality is vital for both economic recovery and food security, including reconstructing market infrastructure, establishing secure trade corridors, and supporting local traders and small businesses to resume operations. 

  • Immediate efforts should be directed towards improving access to basic utilities, including safe drinking water, sanitation, and electricity, particularly in conflict-affected regions. 

  • Rapid economic interventions including through immediate cash transfer programs to alleviate financial burdens and enable households to access food and other necessities. Longer-term interventions should focus on offering households alternative livelihood options and on diversifying income sources, active labor market policies, vocational training, and support for non-agricultural micro-enterprises. 

  • Establishing and expanding social protection programs to support the most vulnerable, including women-headed households, households with low education levels, large families, and unemployed and daily-wage workers.

Additional Key Findings
  • 73% of rural households in Sudan live in inadequate housing.

  • 30% of homes of surveyed households are connected to a water network—their own or through a neighbor.

  • Less than 10% of rural households have flush toilet access, while a similar portion report having no toilet facility at all. Most households reported relying on an unimproved pit latrine with dirt floors for their toilet facility.

  •  32.2% of rural households do not have access to electricity.

  • Over 71% of rural households do not own agricultural land. Just under half of the households that reported owning agricultural land own less than 5 feddans (2.1 hectares).

  • Over 70% of respondents indicated that they did not cultivate any land during the 2023 summer season. Half of the households that reported cultivating land indicated that their farming was disrupted by the conflict. 

  • 25% of rural households reported that they were not able to visit markets due to physical barriers, economic limitations, or safety issues. 43% reported being unable to make essential purchases—64% of those citing high prices are the primary barrier.

Full report | Visit UNDP Sudan’s website to download the full report in full in English. The Arabic version of the report will be available shortly,


For more information and to arrange interviews, please contact:

UNDP    |   Lameese Badr | Head of Communications | UNDP Country Office in Sudan


IFPRI    |   Khalid Siddig | IFPRI Senior Research Fellow and Program Leader | Sudan Strategy Support Program