GENEVA - Growing hunger in war-torn Sudan and limited tools to address the world’s largest displacement crisis are urgent concerns as famine looms, the head of the UN emergency relief agency (OCHA) in the beleaguered Africa nation told UN News on Tuesday.

Justin Brady spoke with UN News’s Khaled Mohamed from Port Sudan, where he outlined the current situation on the ground, warning that “we’re in a race against time, but the time is running out.”

The interview was edited for clarity and length.


UN News: What are the main concerns in Sudan right now?


Justin Brady: We struggle with three main issues – access, resources and attention –to respond to the biggest problems, including the largest displacement problem in the world.

We have a warning of famine. We’re waiting for the latest food security results, but the year started with 4.9 million people in category four of the [Integrated Food Security Phase Classification] IPC, which means they have exhausted all coping mechanisms. We’re likely to see a large percentage of them to be in IPC phase five, which includes famine.

This war has been brutal in terms of human rights abuses, gender and sexual based violence, and there’s really no place for the people to go. We have the full gambit of concerns, and the tools we have to deal with it are quite limited amid the ongoing conflict.

UN News: What are you hearing from the parts of the country you cannot access?

Justin Brady: In the absence of new data we rely on anecdotal evidence. We have received news of people eating leaves from trees; one mother cooked up dirt just to put something in her children’s stomach. The images from some areas are reminiscent of the worst of any famine we have seen elsewhere. There is evidence of increased mortality and graves in various places. Right here in Port Sudan, where we have access, we see children who are malnourished.

I have been involved in two famine prevention operations in Somalia, and it’s something you can’t do on the cheap. We have been waiting on pledges from the Paris conference that took place on 15 April, one-year after the conflict began, and of the $2.2 billion pledged, we should be over 30 per cent funded, but the question is, how long does it take for that money to come into the system, for it to be transferred and to translate into actual operations? Because there’s always a lag time.