Cash Works: Time to Act and Save Lives amid Starvation in Sudan

A person handing someone cash.
A Mercy Corps cash distribution in Eastern Sudan helps people to access food and other essential items through local markets.
July 01, 2024

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As unprecedented hunger grips Sudan, countless lives hang in the balance. Previous humanitarian efforts have fallen short, but a shift to cash-based interventions such as multi-purpose cash assistance and group cash transfers could be the lifeline needed to prevent widespread deaths.

The humanitarian response in Sudan, where conflict has been raging and ravaging lives for over a year, finds itself at a crossroads. In light of immense restrictions on the movement of goods and personnel into and within the country, the response’s primary focus on in-kind aid has proven to be ineffective in reaching people and meeting the sheer scale of needs of populations in the country. As a result, the humanitarian situation has only deteriorated since the conflict began and has now reached critical levels, with people already dying of starvation in parts of the country, and extremely worrying levels of malnutrition among children, especially adolescent girls, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Despite advocacy efforts aimed at recognizing the potential for the use of cash programming, especially multi-purpose cash assistance (MPCA), including to quickly address the most urgent food and other basic needs, it is still not being prioritized in the response. As hunger tightens its grip on communities in several parts of the country, especially in areas most affected by conflict, it is critical for the humanitarian response to build upon the systems developed and lessons learned from a year of successful cash programing in Sudan.

This new paper provides evidence on the effectiveness, impact and feasibility of cash programming in Sudan, and underlines the urgency to invest in cash programming in Sudan amid suffering and starvation.

Key recommendations:

  • Donors should urgently disburse pledges made at the Sudan Conference in April 2024 and prioritize a significant increase in funding for cash, in line with continued advice from the INGO Forum and recent recommendations from the Emergency Directors Group who visited Sudan in May 2024. In the immediate term, donors should prioritize funding to existing structures that have the capacity for a rapid and immediate scale up, such as the Cash Consortium of Sudan.
  • The Humanitarian Country Team should continue to support the scale up of the cash response, ensuring that all humanitarian actors collectively adopt a cash first approach wherever local markets exist, and emphasizing the complementarity of in-kind assistance where possible.
  • UN leadership and donors should sustain strong support for the Cash Working Group (CWG) and Joint Market Monitoring Initiative (JMMI) as essential structures to the scale-up of the cash response.