Conflict and Fragility


Sudan: From hunger to death

24 May 2024 - 16:33
Source: Community kitchen in Khartoum
An estimate of excess mortality in Sudan, based on currently available information

This Alert describes an update to the food balance analysis found in the policy brief 'From Catastrophe to Famine: Immediate action needed in Sudan to contain mass starvation'. Literature study and discussion with experts generated possible formulas to relate cumulative energy intake deficit and body mass index (BMI), and BMI and excess mortality. Using food balance estimates based on published data on harvest and stocks, and somewhat optimistic estimates of stocks at household level, wheat imports and humanitarian food aid, excess mortality was calculated under a number of scenarios. A scenario in which the hungriest people are given small amounts of extra food by others leads to an estimated excess mortality of about 2.5 million people (about 15% of the population in Darfur and Kordofan, which are likely worst affected) by the end of September 2024. A tipping point at which large-scale hunger transitions into largescale death has likely already been reached in parts of the country in May. Key observations are:

  • About 90% of excess mortality will be concentrated among about 10% of the population.
  • Mortality is strongly linked not only to the severity of hunger, but also to its duration. One cannot survive at emergency levels of food consumption for a long time. This is cause for serious concern for the 2025 lean season. 
  • Even a modest redistribution of food to the hungriest people can substantially reduce excess mortality. Sharing of food is a common practice in Sudan, but as scarcity deepens this could become difficult to sustain. It therefore needs to be complemented by support to agricultural production and a rapid, large-scale increase of food flows into Sudan. 

Work is ongoing to estimate post-harvest recovery and possible mortality levels in the 2025 lean season.

Read the alert.