Sudan – a wake up call

Anil Ranchod Head of Media at CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) 20th May 2024

©2024 CAFOD

Sudan is rapidly becoming the world’s worst humanitarian crisis but few people in the UK are aware of this. As Anil Ranchod from IBT member CAFOD writes, this must change. 

In recent weeks, Sudan has emerged as “the world’s worst hunger and displacement crisis” in the words of Barbara Woodward, the UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

With 28 million Sudanese people, almost half the country’s population, in desperate need of aid, suffering such acute hunger that they’re resorting to eating grass and peanut shells, one would expect Sudan’s humanitarian crisis to be headline news. 

It led to an international funding conference in Paris last month. But sadly, all I saw was a few small, random articles; nothing that spelled out the gravity of Sudan’s plight. How could such a looming catastrophe receive such scant attention?

The lack of coverage of Sudan is shocking and troubling

Conflicts such as Israel-Gaza and Russia-Ukraine understandably dominate media headlines, but the apparent indifference towards Sudan is perplexing. As someone new to the realm of international aid and development, I found this disparity both shocking and troubling. Were my expectations too high? Or is the reality that Sudan and its humanitarian crisis are not as newsworthy as I thought?

At the Paris conference, Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, underscored the severity of the crisis, labelling it “the worst child displacement crisis globally.” Yet, as she noted, Sudan remains conspicuously absent from daily news cycles in many parts of the world. 

Despite the best efforts of the Sudan Humanitarian Conference, which provided a platform for global leaders to address the crisis, the response has fallen woefully short. Only half of the required funds were pledged, leaving millions vulnerable to hunger, disease, and violence.

We wanted to find out how aware people in the UK were about the Sudan crisis

Seeking to understand levels of awareness in the UK about the Sudan crisis, we commissioned and published a YouGov poll. Unsurprisingly, only 5% (that’s one in twenty) of British adults correctly identified Sudan as currently the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. 

Yet the numbers speak volumes:  

  • Nearly 9 million (8.8 million) people have fled their homes, including over 3 million children. 
  • With five consecutive failed rainy seasons worsening the conflict, up to 8 million people – almost the population of London – are (as described by the UN) on the brink of famine. 
  • Over 650,000 refugees  and returnees have fled into South Sudan, nearly 580,000 into Chad, and over half a million into Egypt.

But beyond the statistics, it’s the first-hand accounts that truly resonate. Telley Sadia, CAFOD’s country representative for Sudan, painted a harrowing picture when he told me: “Children are succumbing to starvation, soaring food prices, and millions are without access to urgent aid. The scale of this disaster is staggering, yet still largely unknown to the wider world.”

Why the lack of interest in Sudan?

Perhaps the Sudanese journalist, Zeinab Salih, being interviewed on BBC Radio 4 was onto something when she commented, “Despite all the suffering, people don’t know anything about what’s going on here. I don’t think it’s less than any other crisis in the world. But I don’t know, is it because geopolitically we’re not very important? As a country? Or because we’re African and Black people, so nobody’s interested?” But it’s not that simple.

Yes, there is a danger that what is unfolding in Sudan could be seen as a problem for the Sudanese themselves to solve, and that, whatever the outcome, it will have little impact on the UK or its markets. Or it could be that for the media, there is nothing new about a story that has already been covered. Possibly everyone is overwhelmed by the sheer number of humanitarian crises unfolding (or very likely to unfold soon) across the globe. 

Maybe we, as aid agencies, are not doing as good a job at convincing the media to cover the story. Our poll also revealed that 77% of the British public were not aware that the United Nations has warned of a potential famine in Sudan and 37% of UK adults thought there should more news coverage about the situation in Sudan. I personally believe that it’s a combination of each of those theories that make this a forgotten crisis. 

If we don’t act now, this could rapidly become a regional disaster 

But despite the challenges, we remain steadfast. I am determined to try and get some substantial coverage of the crisis in Sudan. If every life truly counts, we must ensure Sudan receives the attention and support it so desperately needs. I urge you to join us in making a difference. Spread the word – start or contribute to a conversation on your social media channels and follow CAFOD’s accounts on X-Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And if you’re inclined to, visit to donate to our emergency appeal.

Together, we need to shine a light on Sudan’s plight and prevent further devastation. Every contribution, no matter how small, can make a world of difference. 

Anil Ranchod is Head of Media at CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development)

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