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UN Geneva Press Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired a hybrid briefing, which was attended by the spokespersons and representatives of the United Nations Development Programme, the World Health Organization, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Population Fund, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. 

One year of war in Sudan

Sarah Bel, for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), informed that UNDP was publishing today a new report titled “Livelihoods in Sudan amid Armed Conflict - Evidence from a National Rural Household Survey.” The study was the outcome of a collaboration between the UNDP and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and it was based on analyses of a comprehensive survey of rural households across the country, including 4,504 households. 

Thair Shraideh, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) representative in Sudan, speaking from Brussels, stated that Sudan was facing an accelerating food security crisis. 

The UNDP study highlighted that 59 percent of the households surveyed face moderate or severe food insecurity, with highest prevalence in the states of West Kordofan, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile. The study warned that a famine in Sudan was expected in 2024, particularly in the states of Khartoum, Aj Jazirah, and in the Darfur and Kordofan regions. Mr. Shraideh explained that the food crisis was rooted in problems of availability, as food production and supply chains had been disrupted by the ongoing war, but at the same time it emanated from an increasing lack of affordability, as households had seen their livelihoods and incomes dwindle or cut because of the war. 

The study called for immediate humanitarian and food assistance for households facing severe food insecurity and income loss. However, warned Mr. Shraideh, that might not be enough to stave off the looming famine. The study also called for concurrent and urgent support to agricultural livelihoods, focusing on providing farmers with access to subsidized inputs like seeds and fertilizers, rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure, and rapid training programs on resilient farming practices. Both critical and complementary tracks – immediate life-saving humanitarian aid and early life-sustaining development recovery efforts were necessary now.

UNDP report can be accessed here

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), stressed that Sudan’s crisis was likely to worsen dramatically in the months to come. We were only seeing the tip of an iceberg, he said; access to humanitarian actors was very constrained; half of the states were not accessible even from within Sudan. Sudan remained an underfunded crisis; the Humanitarian Response Plan appeal for health was only 17 percent funded so far. Every second person, over 25 million people, needed humanitarian assistance – nine million more than in 2023; 15 million people needed urgent health assistance; an alarming 18 million people were facing acute food insecurity, with five million people in the conflict-affected areas at the brink of famine. Every seventh child under five, or 3.5 million children in total, were acutely malnourished, informed Mr. Lindmeier. Some 70 to 80 percent of health facilities were not functioning because of the ongoing conflict; 62 attacks on healthcare had been verified by the WHO. There was a general crisis of medical supplies across the country; people suffering from chronical diseases were not receiving the necessary healthcare. Vaccinations and disease surveillance were also interrupted; over 11,000 cases of cholera, 4,600 cases of measles, and 1.3 million cases of malaria had been recorded, among other diseases. Time was running out, stressed Mr. Lindmeier. 

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that the “International Humanitarian Conference for Sudan and its Neighbors” would take place in Paris on 15 April; Deputy Head of OCHA, Joyce Msuya, would represent the UN. A Secretary-General’s message to the conference would be shared. Further information can be found here

Ms. Vellucci also informed that the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission for the Sudan had just published a new worrying report

Farid Abdulkadir, head of the delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Sudan, speaking from Mombasa, said that, one year since the start of the conflict, 6.8 million people were displaced in Sudan and abroad. There was a lack of supplies of medical equipment, and thousands of medical staff were displaced; some 17.7 million people were currently in need of food assistance. The war had affected water and electricity supplies, as well as food production, which was having its repercussions now and would be even more felt in the future. The Sudanese Red Crescent Society had mobilized 40,000 volunteers who had been working throughout the country and round the clock to help those in need. Over 700,000 children were at the risk of severe acute malnutrition, warned Mr. Abdulkadir. All the humanitarian support would not be sufficient if the root causes of the problem were not rapidly addressed: at least a ceasefire was necessary, so that people could return home, move back to their relatively normal way of life and start rebuilding their country. IFRC was thus calling on the parties to start a dialogue and discuss a ceasefire. 

Answering questions from the media, Mr. Abdulkadir, for the IFRC, said that even without the war Sudan would be facing serious humanitarian challenges. The war was affecting food production in the country, he stressed. At the same time, climate change was continuing to do its damage. Funding levels of humanitarian appeals were regrettably minimal. Mr. Shraideh, for UNDP, stated that if something was not done now, consequences would be catastrophic, and Sudan would be heading towards a famine. He stressed that Sudan was the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world, but it was not getting adequate attention. It was likely that the crisis would cross the borders of Sudan unless urgent action was taken now. Mr. Abdulkadir, for the IFRC, urged the media to pay more attention to this crisis. 

Health situation in Gaza

Richard Peeperkorn, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in the occupied Palestinian territory, speaking from Gaza, informed that on 10 April, WHO and partners had visited the Nasser Medical Complex, Al Aqsa, and Al-Khair hospitals. All three hospitals were completely non-functional due to destruction from hostilities and attacks. Those facilities had no oxygen supply, water, electricity, or sewage system. The destruction in Khan Younis was disproportionate to anything one could imagine: no building or road was intact; there was only rubble and dirt. Population movement towards the Khan Younis and middle area was evident. Dr. Peeperkorn spoke of people trying to scavenge and save things from their destroyed homes. 

The WHO mission had visited four hospitals in Khan Younis as well as two WHO warehouses, destroyed in the hostilities. The Nasser Medical Complex, which used to have 350 hospital beds, had become non-functional in February. The mission had witnessed that the hospital warehouse was now completely destroyed; medical supplies and equipment provided by the WHO were all gone. The hospital’s main building was still standing, but the damage done to it was immense and many parts of it were unrecognizable. The Al Amal hospital was in an even worse shape than the Nasser Medical Complex. Doctors, nonetheless, continued to treat some of the arriving trauma patients. The Al-Khair hospital was still standing, but it was severely damaged. The Jordanian hospital was the only minimally functional hospital which was still receiving a minimal number of patients. WHO and partners stood ready to help revive and rehabilitate functions of these key hospitals, but what was needed before that happened was a sustained deconfliction. A proper engineering assessment and planning were needed first. Before the crisis, it had already been very difficult to get any specialized medical equipment into Gaza; it had taken WHO two years to get three mobile X rays to Gaza, informed Dr. Peeperkorn. A lasting ceasefire was a necessary prerequisite for any rehabilitation work, he reiterated.

Dr. Thanos Gargavanis, World Health Organization (WHO) trauma surgeon and emergency officer, also speaking from Gaza, stated that Al Shifa Hospital used to be the biggest hospital in Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, this hospital had been turned into dust and rubble. Valuable assets, including CT scans, laboratory equipment, and ventilators, were all destroyed. Some incubators in the maternity ward seemed to be still intact. The buildings were burned down, and the main surgical ward had a huge crater in its midst. The complex would need to be evaluated by structural engineers to see if there was a chance to rehabilitate the buildings. The hospital’s yard had been turned into a makeshift graveyard, and some bodies were left outside, under plastic sheets. WHO was ensuring that each set of remains was placed into a separate body bag. Right now, medical oxygen could be produced in one small hospital, which was not enough for the needs in Gaza. Hospitals should never be militarized, stressed Dr. Gargavanis. 

Responding to questions from the media, Dr. Gargavanis said that the WHO mission had seen remains of eight bodies in the Al Shifa yard; more had been covered by plastic sheets and buried. He said that the WHO was working with all parties to secure a higher supply of oxygen. The needs were currently way bigger than what would be possible to provide under current conditions. Medical evaluations now were ad hoc and haphazard; there was no standardized approach or mechanism in place, which were very much needed, he explained. Right now, more than 9,000 patients required to be moved abroad. Before the conflict, 50 to 100 patients had been referred to east Jerusalem per day, specified Dr. Peeperkorn. WHO was ready to help and facilitate transfer of patients, if right conditions were created, he reiterated. 


Selinde Dulckeit, for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), announced that UNFPA would be presenting its flagship State of the Population reportInterwoven Lives, Threads of Hope: Ending inequalities in sexual and reproductive health and rights”, under embargo, in a press conference on 15 April at 2:30 pm, ahead of the official release of the report and end of the embargo on 17 April at 6:01 am Geneva time.

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), informed that on 16 April from 3 to 6 pm, High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Situation in Ethiopia would be held in Room XXIII of the Palais des Nations. The event would also be webcast at UNTV. The purpose was to urgently raise international awareness and for Member States and other donors to announce funding pledges to address the dire needs and bolster the resilience of vulnerable people. More details are available here

Alessandra Vellucci, for the for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent would hold its third session in Room XX of the Palais des Nations from 16 to 19 April.