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This week the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced it had started distributing aid in Sudan‘s conflict-affected Blue Nile state. Previously WFP had not been granted access to this area where rebels (SPLM-N) are fighting Sudan’s government.
Now food aid must be allowed into South Kordofan state which, like Blue Nile, has been devastated by this same conflict. There are reports of tremendous suffering in South Kordofan. Yet aid is not allowed to go through.
View slideshow: Hunger and displacement from conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue NileIn a joint statement in March, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “We remain deeply concerned by the security and humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan. It is imperative that both Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) seize the opportunity of direct talks to address the urgent need for a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access to all areas, and the longer-term political solution. We welcome SPLM-N’s acceptance of the invitation to direct talks and urge the Government of Sudan to do the same, without pre-conditions.”
Currently, the World Food Programme and aid groups are able to operate only in the government-held areas of South Kordofan. Save the Children Sweden has done nutrition screenings for children under five years old in parts of South Kordofan under government control. So far 89,482 have been screened with around 15,000 of the children either moderately or severely malnourished. Plumpy’Nut, a special peanut paste, is being used to treat the children. Without the treatment children will suffer lasting physical and mental damage from malnutrition.
With reports of people living off roots and leaves in the conflict zones of South Kordofan, malnutrition rates would be expected to go much higher. The World Food Programme and other aid groups need access to all of South Kordofan.
Meanwhile, funding is urgently needed for the relief effort in Blue Nile. WFP Sudan Country Director Adnan Khan, speaking of Blue Nile, says, “While we continue to strive for access to all areas, this is still a major breakthrough which will enable us to assist those who continue to be displaced by the conflict or those who have decided to return to their homes and are in dire need of food assistance. For this immediate response, we will need an additional US $20.5 million which will be used to buy 17,000 metric tons of food.”
Article first published as Aid Groups Need Access to Starving People in Sudan’s South Kordofan State on Blogcritics.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced yesterday that life-saving food aid is starting to be delivered to the conflict-affected areas of Blue Nile state in Sudan. The government of Sudan had previously blocked WFP from delivering food in Blue Nile.
Blue Nile and South Kordofan have been the scene of conflict since 2011 as Sudan’s government has waged war against rebels who fought with South Sudan during years of Civil War. Thousands have been displaced and fled to South Sudan or Ethiopia. Those who remained have suffered from hunger. There had been reports of people trying to live off roots and leaves from the forest.
To start, WFP is feeding more than 51,000 conflict affected people in Blue Nile. WFP Programme Officer Arduino Mangoni says, “We are giving a two-month ration for this first round of distribution, following an assessment which we carried out early last month in two of the areas most severely affected by the conflict — Geissan and Kurmuk.” The plan is to expand this aid to four other areas of Blue Nile.
Even before the conflict began WFP was providing aid in these areas to 183,000 people. It is now a race against time to provide food in six areas of Blue Nile before the rainy season of May. When the rains come, roads can become impassable making food deliveries difficult or even impossible by truck.
WFP, which relies on voluntary funding, needs US $20.5 million dollars to provide the desperately needed food.
South Sudan and Sudan creating a demilitarized border zone is welcome news. But it must be followed quickly by more action. Lives depend on it.
There is tremendous suffering among innocent civilians from this conflict, particularly in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan. There Sudan’s army is fighting rebels who sided with South Sudan during years of civil war.
Many thousands are starving; some trying to live on roots and leaves from the forest. Sudan won’t allow the UN World Food Programme to bring aid to parts of these states not under their control. Earlier this year Save the Children-Sweden screened about 17,000 small children in South Kordofan and found that over 2000 of them had either severe or moderate malnutrition. The lack of nutrition can cause lasting physical or mental damage.
Some civilians are fleeing Blue Nile and South Kordofan to refugee camps across the border in South Sudan. Just recently a group of nearly 900 refugees, including 175 children, walked for five days escaping shelling and aerial attacks in their village in Blue Nile. Four died during the journey from exhaustion and others had to be left behind.
Even for those who reach the refugee camps the struggles are not over. There is the risk of disease. The refugee overflow has caused great strain on the impoverished host community. In some cases this has led to fighting, including cattle raids. Aid agencies also need funding to continue to feed and shelter the war victims.
There is such great humanitarian needs even aside from those caused by the conflicts. Drought and long-standing poverty also take their toll, leaving many children malnourished.
Internal conflict in South Sudan, many times over scarce resources, make this crisis even worse. Roads are so bad that aid agencies have to station food at strategic points before they become impassable during the rainy season.
South Sudan’s only hope for overcoming these challenges rests with its children. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is helping to build that future with school meals. This depends though on voluntary funding from governments and the public. The more resources committed to war the less for building the future.
Amor Alogro of WFP says the agency fed 560,261 schoolchildren in Darfur during January and hopes to continue this for the rest of the year. WFP depends on voluntary funding for its operations but its school feeding is short of about $US 33 million dollars.
In South Sudan WFP officer George Fominyen says the agency is going to feed 424,000 children with school meals plus an additional 40,000 girls will receive take-home rations.
WFP provides the meals in the areas where hunger is greatest but they cannot reach all hungry children. The goal is for South Sudan to build a national school feeding program, a difficult task given the constant setbacks from drought and conflict.
Sudan and South Sudan cannot advance their society through endless war and military expense. There is massive distrust between the states, which is not going away any time soon. The new demilitarized zone, once fully implemented, is at least a ray of hope.
We know from our own history that sometimes these agreements can help build peace. The Rush-Bagot agreement disarmed British and American warships on the Great Lakes following years of warfare and when border disputes from Maine to Oregon still existed.
South Sudan and Sudan need to realize that the swords have to be dropped and disputes resolved at the conference table rather than on the battlefield.
Article first published as Civilians Suffering from Conflict Between Sudan and South Sudan on Blogcritics.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is appealing for 6.5 million dollars so it can provide life-saving airlifts of food to starving refugees in South Sudan. WFP relies entirely on voluntary donations from governments and the public.
WFP wants to air drop 2,000 metric tons of food into Maban County to make sure civilians fleeing fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile State have enough food to survive. These refugees have fled to the Upper Nile State in South Sudan to escape the violence and find aid.
Chris Nikoi, the WFP director in South Sudan, says “WFP is pulling out all the stops to keep providing desperately needed food to refugees in Upper Nile State. People in camps have told me how they arrived weak and hungry after weeks of trekking and foraging in the forest before crossing the border. Our food assistance has been a lifeline to more than 100,000 refugees in Maban County, but continuing that lifesaving support will require some extraordinary measures given the size of the refugee influx into an area with limited infrastructure.”
WFP also plans to air drop 3,000 metric tons of food to the Yida refugee camps in Upper Nile State. The number of refugees there is fast increasing. Malnutrition rates, particularly among children, are alarming according to WFP and other aid groups.
If children do not receive enough nutritional support they will suffer lasting physical and mental damage.
The air lifts of food become necessary because of the poor roads in South Sudan, many of which become impassable when rain hits. Food that was pre-positioned in crisis areas by WFP was not enough because of the fast increasing numbers of refugees.
Challiss McDonough of WFP says “we do hope that the donors will recognize the importance and urgency of this situation.” WFP needs funds to provide the airlifts and also to maintain a steady flow of food supplies. The longer the conflict continues between South Sudan and Sudan the more food aid will be needed to save lives.
South Sudan is facing a humanitarian emergency, with nearly five million people suffering from hunger. South Sudan’s conflict with neighboring Sudan is escalating the hunger crisis. Civilians fleeing the fighting are walking for days without food until they can reach aid stations.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says, “In the past weeks, the refugee population in South Sudan’s northern Border States has rapidly increased to more than 160,000 individuals. More than 32,000 Sudanese refugees arrived in Upper Nile state alone, increasing the refugee population in Maban County to over 105,000 individuals.”
WFP, the world’s largest hunger fighting agency, is racing to provide aid. One its key partners is the US Food for Peace program, the largest single source of funding for WFP. Congress, though, is planning to reduce funding for Food for Peace and other global hunger fighting programs.
The House Appropriations Committee just approved a bill that would cut the Food for Peace program by 22 percent, down to the level of $1.15 billion for the coming fiscal year. Who will this hurt? South Sudan as well as other nations that need food assistance.
Kathleen Kahlau of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) said last week that proposed cuts to Food for Peace are a severe threat. In a CRS webcast on South Sudan Kahlua said that “we are very concerned about the cuts to international food aid as proposed by the Congress. Please help us keep these drastic cuts from happening.”
CRS has written a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating, “Please ensure that the Administration is engaged in every way possible with the governments of Sudan and South Sudan and with important partner countries and regional bodies to prevent a return to war, to end attacks on civilians, and to protect the basic rights of the Sudanese people, including the freedom of movement and access to humanitarian aid.”
Diplomatic efforts at demilitarizing the border and resolving the dispute over oil revenues need to be reinforced with food for the hungry.
South Sudan’s troubles go far beyond its border areas. The country is facing low food production resulting from drought. Internal conflict between rival tribes has caused large-scale displacement and hunger.
WFP warns the crisis may get much worse, “with thousands more refugees expected to arrive in the coming weeks before the rains make the trek across the border impossible.” The agency is currently short $86 million in funding to fight hunger in South Sudan.
Article first published as Budget Cuts by Congress Would Impact Hungry South Sudan on Blogcritics.