Food Aid in Sudan

A History of Power, Politics and Profit

Susanne Jaspars


A comprehensive, historical study of one of the world's largest food aid programmes, interrogating the failures of contemporary humanitarianism and the wider crisis in the global food system.

In 2004, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan called Darfur the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. A comprehensive food aid programme soon followed, at the time the largest in the world. Yet by 2014, while the crisis continued, international agencies found they had limited access to much of the population, with the Sudanese regime effectively controlling who received aid. As a result, acute malnutrition remains persistently high.

Food Aid in Sudan argues that the situation in Sudan is emblematic of a far wider problem. Analysing the history of food aid in the country over fifty years, Jaspars shows that such aid often serves to enrich local regimes and the private sector while leaving war-torn populations in a state of permanent emergency. Drawing on her decades of experience as an aid worker and researcher in the region, and extensive interviews with workers in the food aid process, Jaspars brings together two key topics of our time: the failure of the humanitarian system to respond to today’s crises, and the crisis in the global food system.

Essential reading for students and researchers across the social sciences studying the nature and effectiveness of contemporary humanitarianism, development and international aid.

Author Bio

Susanne Jaspars has worked in the field of humanitarian aid for over thirty years, both as a practitioner and researcher. She has worked for Medecins sans Frontieres, Oxfam, and the World Food Programme, in countries across east and central Africa. She has also conducted research for the Overseas Development Institute, and currently serves on the editorial board of the International Humanitarian Studies Association. Her previous works include Nutrition Matters: People, Food and Famine (co-authored with Helen Young, 1995).

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • 1. Introduction: Food Aid and Power
    • The Crisis in Sudan
    • What is Food Aid?
    • Analysing Food Aid, Power and Governance
    • Food Aid in Sudan
    • The Challenges of Fieldwork in Sudan
  • 2. From Managing States and Supporting Livelihoods to Abandoning Populations
    • Managing States: Food Aid to Strengthen States and Benefit Donors
    • Managing Lives: Food Aid to Save Lives and Protect Livelihoods
    • Abandoning Populations: Food Aid, Global Instability and Resilience
    • Conclusions
  • 3. Food Aid in Sudan: Government and Private Sector Response
    • Sudan’s Protracted Crisis: Food, Governance and Inequality
    • The Early Years of Food Aid in Sudan: Urban Food Subsidies, Uneven Development and Refugees
    • Changes in Quantities and Types of International Food Aid in Sudan
    • The Famines of the 1980s and the Manipulation of Food Aid
    • Islamism, Self-sufficiency and War
    • Control over International Agencies and the Sudanisation of Food Aid
    • Conclusions
  • 4. The Effects of Food Aid Practices in North Darfur
    • An Overview of Drought, Famine and Conflict in North Darfur
    • Food Aid in Response to Drought and Famine (the 1980s and 1990s)
    • The Darfur Crisis: Food Aid in the Early Years (2003–07)
    • The Later Years (2008–14): Reduced Food Aid and Access Restrictions
    • Indirect Effects of Reduced Food Aid
    • Are People Still Coping?
    • Conclusions
  • 5. Perceptions of Food Aid: Politics, Dependency and Denial of Permanent Emergency
    • A Country of Food Aid Experts
    • The Government View of Food Aid
    • International Agencies: De-politicisation and Abandonment
    • International Agencies: The Denial of Permanent Emergency
    • Alternative Perceptions of Food Aid: Politics, War and Economic Benefits
    • Conclusions
  • 6. Conclusions
    • What Brought about Change?
    • Continuities?
    • Impact of Food Aid Practices in Sudan’s Protracted Emergency
    • Implications for Humanitarian and Food Aid Operations
  • Appendix 1: Chronology of Key Political Events in Sudan


'A superb account of the intertwining of nutritional science, politics and humanitarian crisis in Sudan over fifty years. This is an essential book for all students of humanitarianism.'
Alex de Waal, co-author of Darfur: A Short History of a Long War

‘Jaspers has written a singular, important and challenging book. Indeed, I cannot speak too highly of this major work. This book deserves to become a classic within the humanitarian field and demands to be widely read.’
Mark Duffield, author of Global Governance and the New Wars

‘Provides crucial insights into how food aid has shaped power relations in Sudan. A timely and meticulous contribution towards understanding the politics of food insecurity and the processes of aid provision.’
Zoë Marriage, SOAS, University of London

‘Brilliantly and disturbingly demonstrates how a range of self-interests and shifting orthodoxies have combined to create the virtual abandonment of a highly distressed population in Darfur.’
David Keen, London School of Economics


Publication Date: 15 November 2019
264 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786992086
Hardback: 9781786992093
eBook ePub: 9781786992116
eBook PDF: 9781786992109
eBook Kindle: 9781786992123

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