As Sudan approaches the one-year anniversary of its civil conflict, the United Nations is warning the world cannot make clearer the desperation that civilians are facing in the African country.

“If we are going to prevent Sudan from becoming the world’s largest hunger crisis, coordinated efforts and joined-up diplomacy is urgent and critical. We need all parties to provide unrestricted access across borders and across conflict lines,” said Carl Skau, the Deputy Executive Director at the UN World Food Program (WFP) this week.

The civil war started in April 2023, involving fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group.

For months, the Sudanese army has struggled to against the paramilitary forces, who have overrun most of Darfur and large parts of South Kordofan in western Sudan. More recently, the paramilitary troops have made progress in central and eastern Sudan.

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Catholic charity Caritas Sudan described the situation as a forgotten crisis that the international community urgently needs to address.

“The ongoing crisis, compounded by security and administrative challenges, is preventing humanitarian aid reaching everyone who needs it. The coming rainy season between June and October-November will only make the situation worse,” the group said in a statement.

The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), which is an agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has been raising funds to help Sudan during the present situation.

Kayode Akintola, CAFOD’s Head of Africa, visited the country in February 2023, and said it was “very shocking.”

“Some of the places that I drove through or visited have seen destruction and people not being able to go about their normal life,” he said.

He said CAFOD has been working in Sudan since the 1970s, and has supported agriculture production, but also livelihood opportunities, particularly for smallholder farmers and women.

“Sudan is also host to people who are looking for safety and had at least 20 refugee camps. We helped deliver clean water and sanitation in those camps and in host communities. Some of these refugees have fled from neighboring countries because of the effects of climate change, and many are fleeing fighting,” he said.

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“Now, sadly, Sudan is itself in deep conflict as well. Some of our Sudan offices and their staff have had to be relocated due to the crisis. I am grateful to God that our staff and partners are safe at the moment,” Akintola added.

He called on people to pray for the Sudanese people and for peace in Sudan.

“That would be my very first, my very first appeal. The second one is please speak to your [British political leaders]. Ask the government to act now. The international community must also demand the protection of civilians and pursue justice for victims of war crimes,” Akintola said.

“This is the time to actually make every effort to save every life because every life counts,” he said.

The UN says the war between the Sudanese army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has left 18 million people – more than a third of the population – facing acute food insecurity.

The international body says the fighting has restricted agricultural production, damaged major infrastructure, caused prices to spiral and disrupted trade flows.

Akintola says the local Church is calling on the international community to help Sudan.

“In a collective statement, the Catholic Bishops in Sudan and South Sudan urge the UN, the US, the UK and Norway – also referred to as the Troika – and other members of the international community to intensify their respective efforts to end the ongoing violence in Sudan,” the CAFOD official said.

He said the looming hunger crisis and conflict means the numbers of people crossing the borders is only going to get higher.

“The UN Security Council urges an immediate ceasefire in Sudan and has emphasized the need for swift aid delivery and civilian protection. Action now is crucial,” he said.

“Even in the midst of all these killings, there have been efforts by people within communities to try to reach out to one another. People are sharing food supplies. People are wanting to share what they have, and that is the reality of how people in Sudan want to live,” Akintola said.

“People are looking forward to having a democratic government, so communities can really thrive. And people can really go about their life, without fear and in an atmosphere of peace, without conflict,” he said.

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