CEO Statement at Sudan Summit: Pledges must be disbursed immediately to avoid famine

April 15, 2024

Mercy Corps Chief Executive Officer, Tjada D'Oyen McKenna, delivered remarks at the International Humanitarian Conference for Sudan and its Neighboring Countries in Paris today to advocate for mediation to end the fighting, aid funding to avert famine, and access and safety guarantees for aid workers:

Good afternoon, and thank you to France, Germany, and the European Union for organizing this critical conference. 

I want to begin by honoring the unwavering strength and resilience of the Sudanese people, as we mark twelve months of brutal conflict and extraordinary suffering inflicted upon them. One of our team members, who was displaced from Khartoum, recently shared with me a powerful sentiment. She said: "Despite the suffering and loss I have endured, I feel stronger than ever, and am even more committed to my mission of supporting those in need."

The people of Sudan represent our greatest hope for overcoming this crisis, marked by egregious violations of international humanitarian law, widespread sexual violence and a downward spiral into conflict-induced hunger. However, the muted response to their suffering represents a stain on our collective global conscience. 

The events of the past year have me wondering: Where was our collective outcry when women, men and children were deliberately targeted, sometimes because of their ethnicity or gender? When hospitals, schools, camps, farms and markets were attacked? When nine million people have been forced to flee their homes? 

If violence doesn’t kill, starvation will. An estimated 18 million people, nearly half the population, are suffering from severe acute hunger across Sudan. The threat of famine is real, with hundreds of thousands at risk of perishing, including some 230,000 children, pregnant women and new mothers.

Staggering as these numbers are, they do not fully capture the depth of suffering. Inaccessible areas hide the true extent of starvation. 

Humanitarian actors face exceptional access challenges, both across borders and lines of conflict. Insecurity and bureaucratic hurdles imposed by conflict parties mean that in-kind aid is not reaching people in desperate need. In some places, cash assistance has been the only way for international organizations to provide support, but it has been at woefully insufficient levels. 

Sudanese community-based organizations have been a lifeline for trapped populations. However, they are not receiving sufficient support to safely continue and expand their life-saving work.

Global leaders, including those present in this room, have the power to address this crisis. Yet it has so far been met with apathy and indifference. This is unacceptable.

Famine is imminent, driven by ongoing conflict and disregard for the rules of war. 

To address and reduce the impacts of this catastrophe, I call on all actors present today to intensify efforts to end hostilities, alongside efforts to ensure the protection of civilians and the infrastructure on which their lives depend.  

I urge you to push more vigorously for unhindered access to life-saving assistance for all people, regardless of where they live. 

Sudan is out of time. Pledges announced today must be disbursed immediately and better support the local groups and actors, including farmers and markets, who are essential to communities’ survival and resilience. 

By June this year, it will already be too late to prevent the worst. The clock is ticking, and we must act now.