Sudanese escaping war / Photo: Getty Images

The UN's World Food Programme says "the vast majority of its people are going hungry'' in Sudan as the country tethers on the brink of collapse after ten months of war.

"At this point, less than five percent of Sudanese can afford a square meal a day," the WFP's Sudan country director, Eddie Rowe, told reporters in Brussels.

Since last April, Sudan has been gripped by fighting between the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which has killed thousands and created what the United Nations calls "the world's largest displacement crisis."

A combined 10.7 million people have been uprooted by the current war and previous conflicts, according to the UN.

'Humanitarian disaster'

Nine million people remain displaced within Sudan, where Rowe said a "lethal cocktail of continued conflict, stalled harvests, and rampant and consistent displacement risks plunging millions more into a catastrophic humanitarian disaster."

Across Sudan, which the WFP says was already facing one of the world's worst food crises before the war, 18 million people are facing acute food insecurity.

Of those, Rowe said "close to five million are on the precipice of catastrophe"—enduring one of the worst emergency classifications the WFP uses, second only to famine.

Aid groups have for months warned that, as a result of hampered humanitarian access and severe underfunding, the spectre of famine looms over Sudan.

But the same obstacles to aid delivery inhibit the ability to determine the extent of the catastrophe.

No access

According to Michael Dunford, WFP's Eastern Africa regional director, there is a major issue in "the availability of the data to confirm one way or the other whether or not the thresholds (required to declare a famine) have been met."

With WFP only able to reach 10 percent of those in need, "there are large tracts of the country that we simply cannot access," Dunford told reporters.

Sudan's most fertile regions could have helped ward off famine, but that has been dashed as fighting enters the country's agricultural heartlands.

In December, a paramilitary advance brought the war to Al-Jazira state, just south of the capital Khartoum, which was set to produce the bulk of Sudan's grains for the season.

"Thousands of smallholder farms and even the large-scale schemes have been deserted because people are on the move, running away from the conflict," Rowe said.

"As we approach the hunger season," he said, the crisis is only set to "further deteriorate".

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