Months of fighting in Sudan don’t seem to be stopping. The Sudanese army and Rapid Support Force militias continue to face off in urban areas such as Khartoum.
An estimated 200,000 people have been forced to flee to nearby countries and more than 700,000 have been displaced within Sudan, triggering a humanitarian crisis. Many more remain trapped in the country.
Amid this humanitarian crisis, a food factory burned down last week, putting many children at risk of starvation.
The Samil factory produced a life-saving product called RUTFs, which stands for ready-to-use therapeutic food.
RUTF was invented by a French scientist 25 years ago and is used to treat severely malnourished children up to 5 years of age.
“It’s a bit of a magical food because you’re bringing a child back from the brink of death,” explained James Elder, UNICEF spokesman. “It’s a dense energy paste. It is full of micronutrients, peanuts and sugar, milk powder, vitamins [and] oil It has it all, it really does.”
UNICEF worked with the Khartoum Sawmill factory to procure RUTFs needed to feed children in Sudan.
The elder said that he does not know who is behind the fire at the factory. was it a deliberate act or was it just the result of a fight between the two sides?
It is obvious, however, that 15,000 boxes of food were destroyed.
“Factory that produces 60% of this ready-to-use medical food for Sudanese children. [was] burned, the production line, the machines and all the possibility to continue the production. So this was another blow to children who are being attacked from so many sides,” he said.
According to UN estimates, 19 million people in Sudan are at risk of starvation.
Many fled, but for those who remained, venturing out to find food could cost them their lives. Banks are closed and people are running out of cash.
Elder added that UNICEF is now trying to use prepared food from other countries. But ongoing fighting makes deliveries difficult.
“This was already a cruel place for millions and millions of children. It just worked [much] harder,” he lamented.
John Godfrey, the US ambassador to Sudan, described the plant as the backbone of humanitarian programs for supplementary feeding of children in Sudan.
He said in a tweet that 3 million children in Sudan were already suffering from hunger and malnutrition. This conflict has increased that number, he added.
The burning of the sawmill is part of a pattern of destruction of food supplies that makes life so difficult for residents that they decide to leave.
Aerial footage showed a large fire at a market in the Sudanese town of Omdurman, northwest of Khartoum, on Monday.
In the early days of the war, the World Food Program said its warehouses had been looted and that more than $13 million worth of food had been taken.
“We are looking at 25,000 to 30,000 refugees crossing the border [into Chad] in the last few days,” Eugene Byun told The World in a WhatsApp message, adding that more than 90% of them were women and children.
Byun said his team has seen many children crossing the border on their own.
“We see many orphans without relatives, without their parents crossing the border. It is really a child crisis.’
The head of UNICEF said that according to his organization, 190 children were killed in the first 11 days of the war. This is likely an undercount, he said, given the difficulty of confirming deaths in the conflict zone.
Now, as news of the only factory making food for severely malnourished children comes to light, fears for the survival of millions of children are growing.
The elder said that time is of the essence to save malnourished children, so supplies must arrive quickly.
If this does not happen, even if the children survive the bombs and bullets, they may starve to death.