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Famine in Sudan: One Year After War

“A cause is only hopeless once people lose hope…and at World Relief we continue to hope because we serve a God of hope.” – Josh Meares, World Relief Sudan

It’s been one year since war broke out in Sudan. Today, Josh Meares, World Relief Sudan’s Country Director, reflects on the past year — how it has affected his team personally and professionally, and how they continue to work hard amidst excruciating circumstances.

Since war broke, out at least 13,000 people have been killed and nearly 8 million have been displaced. Seven million people are expected to face famine in the coming months as the war aggravates an existing food crisis. Famine is the most severe kind of food crisis where a substantial portion of the population die daily due to starvation.

World Relief has been working in Sudan since 2004. Outside the U.S., Sudan is our largest country of operation with more than 300 staff members committed to serving those experiencing vulnerability and building flourishing communities. As war continues, we remain in Sudan reaching hundreds of thousands in Darfur and in east Sudan with food, water and healthcare.

We continue to pray for the team in Sudan and for everyone affected by this war. Read Josh’s reflection, and join us as we support women, men and children affected by crises in Sudan and across the globe by giving today.


The eyes staring at me look different than I remember. Older, sadder, maybe a bit wiser. They are still my eyes, but they have changed, aged. That’s something Sudan and I have in common. 

Serving the most vulnerable people in Sudan over the last year has been extremely challenging. Providing food, water and health care in the midst of a violent conflict has pushed our team to its limits and beyond. 

I’m not ashamed to admit that going through my journal and notes from April and May last year was difficult. Remembering the bombs and the gunfire, the power outages, the communications blackout, the uncertainty. Remembering the pressure to get a group of expatriates out of the epicenter of the brutal war that broke out on April 15, 2023. Remembering the faithful prayers of friends and family, supporters near and far, and the ways that God’s grace manifested itself.  

By God’s grace, World Relief Sudan was able to gather its expatriate staff — two visitors from Nicaragua, two teenagers far from home and a young couple with their nine-month-old baby from all over the city — into our van and join almost 1,200 others in the UN-led evacuation from Khartoum to Port Sudan. 

Almost the entire international community fled the country: every embassy, all the businessmen, diplomats, even humanitarians. Sudan was one of the largest and most complex humanitarian responses in the world before the new conflict broke out. Several thousand expatriates worked for the UN and NGOs helping provide aid to millions of vulnerable Sudanese. But by April 30, 2023, less than 30 remained. James K. and I were two of those. Together, we made up half of the NGO community in Port Sudan.


I remember those early days in May 2023, trying to figure out how in the world we were supposed to help vulnerable people when 85% of our own national staff were internally displaced persons (IDPs). The banks didn’t work, the government didn’t work, the phones and the internet didn’t work. But World Relief did. 

We worked our fingers to the bone, day and night, sleeping in mattresses on the floor of shared offices, doing our best to serve the most vulnerable. Doing our best to imitate the one who called us by his glory and grace and prepared good works for us, so that we might walk in them. 

Prior to the war, World Relief had 23 offices across five states in Sudan — West Darfur, Central Darfur, Blue Nile, South Kordofan and our national office in Khartoum. When the fighting broke out, we lost one office, then two, then 10. Worse, we lost three members of our staff. But over the weeks and months to come, life normalized, stabilized somehow. In the midst of crisis, God was faithful, as God always is, sustaining us through unimaginable circumstances.  

Just a few months prior, in January 2023, World Relief’s newest international office officially opened in Chad. Soon, the team in Chad began collaborating with our team in Sudan. We set up a sub-base in the eastern region of Chad to respond to the massive influx of Sudanese refugees and their dire needs.

World Relief Chad also facilitated the entry of World Relief Sudan expatriate staff to the eastern part of the country, and a cross-border operation commenced. We were able to provide aid to those in Darfur, where the situation was especially dire.


World Relief began stumbling forward, stubbornly refusing to give up hope. By August 2023, World Relief was able to distribute food to 15,000 people in Geneina, the first significant response in Darfur since the conflict started. It was chaotic. We made mistakes. But by the grace of God, we pushed forward. We took risks because, as one of our national staff said, “How can we rest while our brothers and sisters are sleeping under the sky?” 

By the end of September 2023, World Relief was reaching tens of thousands in Darfur and in east Sudan with food, water, medicine and blankets. We were saving lives.

Over in Port Sudan, World Relief became famous somehow. We were the expatriates who didn’t leave, and who kept not leaving. As the expat community began to grow, newcomers would ask us questions like, “You’ve been here HOW long?” James K., Ugandan, and Tabeth T., Zimbabwean, both stayed in Sudan for five months, far from their families because the work demanded it. That’s what Christ-followers do best, I think — we suffer with people well.


Sudan continues to get worse. The numbers are unfathomable — 6.5 million internally displaced people. 1.9 million more who have fled the country. What can we even compare that to? Imagine the biggest concert or sporting event that you have ever been to. Now multiply that by at least 100. That’s how many people have fled for their lives. 

There are 7 million people who will likely face famine. Famine is defined as two people out of 1,000 dying each day from lack of food in the next six months because war has displaced people and prevented them from planting their crops. If things don’t change, by July 1,400 Sudanese children and elderly will die each day from starvation. That’s roughly equivalent to losing the undergraduate enrollment of the University of Texas each month. There have been disease outbreaks, including cholera. The war continues to expand as both sides continue to seek military victory, and as both sides continue to receive aid from third parties.

Although our response has grown — we are now serving hundreds of thousands instead of tens —it still feels like a drop in the bucket. 


Sudan may never again experience those exhilarating nights of 2019 when, after a 35-year reign, the former Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was overthrown by a popular movement. It was a time when women and children could walk freely and safely through Khartoum in the dead of night and people had hope for a more prosperous and free Sudan. Prosperity may not return. Sudan has aged too. But a cause is only hopeless once people lose hope. 

Causes don’t hope, people do. We, as World Relief, continue to hope, not because we see realistic paths to peace or prosperity, but because we serve the God of hope. We keep hoping because we remember that Easter is coming — a day when we celebrate victory over death, three days after the son of God was killed on a cross. What then is a civil war, in the context of this hope? The destruction of the capital cities? Economic collapse?

We keep working, not because we imagine ourselves to be saviors, but because we have been saved. Our call is to be faithful, for as long as God has called us here. Lord willing, our service in these broken moments will testify to the good news in ways that our service in the good times never could. I am personally so thankful for those who have faithfully partnered with us over this last year in prayer. Thank you! One year in, more than ever, we need partners. Partners who will hope with us, pray with us and serve with us, as we strive to push back the darkness in the name of Jesus until the day he comes again.

Joshua Meares has been working for World Relief in a variety of roles since 2012. He was the Country Director in Indonesia from 2014-2019 and the Country Director in Cambodia in 2018. He became the Country Director in Sudan in August 2021. Joshua has an M.A. in Economics (University of New Mexico) with a focus on Development Economics, and a B.S. in Computer Science (University of Texas at Dallas). He has worked in all aspects of the humanitarian-development-peace nexus in his career and has a strong background in non-profit finance. 

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