A new report produced by Cash Consortium of Sudan has revealed the importance of cash programming in Sudan to avert further loss of life owing to hunger in Sudan. More than one in three people are suffering from acute hunger in Sudan, making it one of the worst hunger crises in the world. Conflict as the primary driver, has forced farmers to abandon their lands, disrupted markets, led to massive displacement, impacted people’s earnings, driven up food prices by 83%, and has restricted people’s access to assistance. All of which has left about 18 million people (more than 37% of the population) facing crisis (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IDP) 3) or emergency (IPC 4) levels of food insecurity across the country. Sudan is headed towards famine, mass starvation, and an increase in deaths. Something that is both catastrophic and preventable.

Prioritising assistance in the form of cash, can enable a rapid scale-up of the humanitarian response and expand reach through cost-efficient programming. The lives of millions facing extreme food insecurity, especially in the greater Darfur, greater Kordofan, and Khartoum state, hinge on the ability of the humanitarian response to make use of cash programming’s full potential. One which has been largely overlooked and underutilised. 

Eatizaz Yousif, IRC Country Director for Sudan said, “This important report reveals the critical need for cash programming in Sudan. These programmes are able to reduce the need for and cost associated with transportation of humanitarian goods, warehousing, and other logistics. Providing people with cash sparks spending, helps people afford food and other essential goods, and strengthens the local businesses people rely on during crises.” 

Stefano Battain, Deputy Director for Cash and Markets at the IRC, said, “Across various crisis contexts, the IRC has seen and understands firsthand the tremendous power and potential of cash assistance as a tool to help our clients get back on their feet. Our clients understand what they and their families need in times of crisis and do not need to be micromanaged on their road to recovery. The scaling and strengthening of cash assistance within Sudan is and will remain a crucial component of any effective plan to respond constructively to the ongoing humanitarian crisis within that country and begin laying the foundation of a better future for communities within Sudan and throughout the region.” 

The report shows that markets remain active and stocked with food and other essential goods in most areas across the country, however, people’s inability to afford these goods due to loss of purchasing power during the war, has put existing local markets at risk. In Sudan, cash offers the only option for life-saving assistance where in-kind (food, basic goods) assistance delivery is constrained due to access issues and high operational costs. With existing food programming only able to reach a mere 10% of people facing severe hunger across Sudan, cash transfers represent the only option to access food for the majority of people in need. Some initiatives - such as the authors of this report, the Cash Consortium of Sudan - are already providing cash transfers that enable people across the country to buy food and other essential items. This is crucial to meet urgent and spiraling humanitarian needs today and keep local markets afloat during and beyond the crisis.

The use of cash has been recognised as a key assistance modality to prevent famine and support local markets to continue functioning through crises. It is often faster, cheaper, and stimulates local markets whereas in-kind assistance can undermine local markets and economies. However, in-kind assistance is absolutely necessary in areas where markets may not have required goods, a sufficient supply, and/or are unable to restock their supply. In places where markets are still functioning, it is essential to rely on market assessments and analyses available to ensure that wherever possible, cash-based programming is prioritised.

By limiting the potential of cash in Sudan, global donors are backsliding on Grand Bargain commitments made years ago and falling into inaction in the face of a potential widespread famine. Considering the available evidence, there is no doubt that in many areas of the country, cash programming should urgently be implemented as the main pillar of an efficient, principled, multi-sectoral humanitarian response and famine prevention strategy, and supplemented with other interventions only when necessary. Refusing to fund these types of programmes is yet another demonstration of neglect and complacency for the tremendous suffering affecting people in Sudan. Although famine has not yet been declared, 4.9 million people (10% of the population) who are in IPC Phase 4, may die of starvation in a matter of weeks or months if no action is taken.