Tag Archives: Sudan

Life-Saving Food Needed in Blue Nile, Sudan by May

The fighting in Blue Nile Sudan has caused a hunger and refugee crisis with thousands fleeing to South Sudan and Ethiopia. Many others who remain behind in Blue Nile are suffering from food shortages Credit: UNHCR

The fighting in Blue Nile Sudan has caused a hunger and refugee crisis with thousands fleeing to South Sudan and Ethiopia. Many others who remain behind in Blue Nile are suffering from food shortages Credit: UNHCR

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.

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Civilians Suffering from Sudan, South Sudan Conflict

A Sudanese man (right) in Upper Nile grieves the loss of his two daughters after an airstrike on his town in Blue Nile, Sudan (UNHCR).

A Sudanese man (right) in Upper Nile grieves the loss of his two daughters after an airstrike on his town in Blue Nile, Sudan (UNHCR).

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.

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Donations Needed for Life-saving Air Drops of Food into South Sudan

WFP provides food assistance to refugees who arrive in Maban County in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State, Donations are needed to airlift more food to the starving refugees. (WFP/George Fominyen)

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.

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Budget Cuts by Congress Would Impact Hungry South Sudan

One year after gaining independence South Sudan is still searching for peace. Conflict and hunger threaten to ruin the young nation.(Sara A. Fajardo/CRS)

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.

See also An Independent Nation’s Parallel Path to Lasting Peace.

Article first published as Budget Cuts by Congress Would Impact Hungry South Sudan on Blogcritics.

 

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President Obama to Make Speech About Global Hunger Crisis

Food aid is desperately needed by refugees from the conflict in Mali. While some refugees were able to bring a few animals with them, most of the camp’s inhabitants were forced to leave their livestock at home in Mali. (WFP/Jacqueline Seeley)

With hunger emergencies ongoing in the Sahel region of Africa, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan and other countries, President Barack Obama faces one of his most daunting foreign policy challenges. The President will be making a speech about the global hunger crisis this Friday, May 18th, at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington D.C.

Obama’s speech will be pivotal in rallying support to fight off famine on multiple fronts. In the Sahel region of Africa massive drought and a conflict in Northern Mali have placed over 16 million people at risk of starvation. The Sahel hunger crisis, which impacts Niger, Mauritania, Mali, and at least five other nations, is expected to peak this summer. Aid agencies are short on funding to meet the challenge. Annie Bodmer-Roy, of Save the Children, posted on Twitter today about the tragedy aid workers are witnessing in Niger: “Hear[t]breaking news this aft: 7mnth-old boy I met yesterday, badly malnourished, did not make it through the day. We need to stop this.”

The UN World Food Programme’s director Ertharin Cousin and UNHCR director Antonio Guterres said in a joint statement, “The window of opportunity to save lives is narrowing by the day. Today we appeal to the international community on behalf of the most vulnerable people in Niger and Sahelian countries. The time to act is now.”

The Sahel though is not the only area in crisis. East Africa is still recovering from last year’s drought and famine.

In Sudan, as conflict escalates so does hunger. Farmers have been forced away from their land. Drought also has hit, leveling another blow at food production. As peace efforts go forward by the U.S. and allies, so too must humanitarian aid to the displaced. There must be a special effort at food for malnourished children under five years of age, and also feeding programs for school age children.

In Afghanistan, hunger and malnutrition have severely damaged hopes for peace and development within the country. Low funding for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has limited its ability to carry out hunger relief missions. The UN agency is warning that funding shortages will mean more cuts to programs helping the hungry. Even school feeding programs of high energy biscuits and take-home rations will face cuts again as they did last year unless support comes from the international community.

Yemen, a country high on the U.S. national security priorities, is deeply mired in hunger and malnutrition. The World Food Programme says that 22 percent of the population suffers from severe hunger.

A report from the UN says, there are almost one million children under the age of five in Yemen who are estimated to suffer from acute malnutrition, with 267,000 children at risk of dying without food aid. Children who suffer from malnutrition in the first years of life suffer lasting physical and mental damage. The key is to intervene quickly.

About 60 percent of Yemen’s children suffer from stunting. Child malnutrition in parts of Yemen rivals that of famine-ravaged Somalia. The United Nations says that the humanitarian response plan in Yemen remains $265 million dollars underfunded.

The challenge facing President Obama, as was the case with some of his predecessors, is to rally support for fighting global hunger, an issue often off the radar of politicians and media.

President Harry Truman was able to do so after World War II when hunger threatened the recovery of the World War II devastated countries. Truman worked closely with former President Herbert Hoover to build support at home and abroad. Dwight Eisenhower was also among those speaking out of the need for fighting hunger in order to win the peace. When Eisenhower later became president he started the Food for Peace program which today needs a funding boost to meet the growing humanitarian challenge.

Food for Peace is the primary tool of the US when it comes to fighting global hunger. The program makes donations to countries suffering from hunger. For instance Food for Peace donations came to the aid of East Africa last year when a severe drought hit. The World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services and other organizations distribute the food.

The Food for Peace program though is only as strong as how much funding Congress allows when it makes the foreign policy budget. The funding range right now for Food for Peace is around $1.5 billion dollars a year, whereas the annual cost to the nuclear weapons program is at least $52 billion dollars a year.

Today, there clearly is a need to boost the funding for Food for Peace and other aid programs given the size of the humanitarian disaster facing the globe. Increased emphasis to Food for Peace may be starting to take hold. So far this year U.S. Food for Peace donations to Yemen have increased over 2011. The most recent US Food for Peace donations totaling $47 million dollars will help feed Yemenis displaced by the ongoing conflict.

President Obama’s focus needs to be on the ongoing humanitarian emergencies and also how to prevent them from recurring. This means peace efforts to end the conflicts causing so much hunger and displacement, and food aid to reinforce the peace. The key is to build up food production in impoverished countries. Increasing the resilience of the small farmer to drought, will be a key topic of discussion at the symposium along with how the governments and business leaders can work together to make this happen.

Article first published as President Obama to Make Speech About Global Hunger Crisis on Blogcritics.

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Sudan, South Sudan Need Demilitarized Border

Civilians living in the border areas between South Sudan and Sudan are caught in the deadly crossfire between two rival nations. Lives have been lost, families displaced from their homes and communities. And it could get much worse.

There is fear the two nations will start an all-out war, a return to the level of suffering during the two-decade conflict that ended in 2005.

President Obama said directly to both Sudan and South Sudan last month, “It doesn’t have to be this way. Conflict is not inevitable. You still have a choice.”

South Sudan and Sudan can choose to implement the much needed “safe demilitarized border zone” which the UN Security Council is urging them to adopt. By pulling back their forces, they can stop the bloodshed, lower tensions and the risk of miscalculations by their forces, and allow humanitarian aid to flow more freely. There is tremendous hunger and poverty in this region.

The UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) Sudan director Chris Nikoi says, “The food security situation in the border states was already precarious. Now the border clashes threaten to displace more people and disrupt already fragile livelihoods.”

Food, water, medicine, shelter, and education need to constitute the sole focus on both sides of the border. This can only happen once Sudan and South Sudan pull their armies back from the brink.

John Quincy Adams once said about a buildup of arms on the Great Lakes along the U.S. border with British-ruled Canada in 1816, “the moral and political tendency of such a system must be to war and not to peace.” The U.S. and Britain chose then to demilitarize rather than escalate, having had enough of conflict from previous years. Treaties followed rather than war.

Such diplomacy is the only answer to South Sudan and Sudan’s struggle too. For it can open the only road to peace for the two countries: dialogue and negotiation.

See also “An Independent Nation’s Parallel Path to Lasting Peace”.

Article first published as Sudan, South Sudan Need Demilitarized Border on Blogcritics.

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South Sudan Faces Hunger Emergency

South Sudan is facing a major hunger emergency as drought has ruined food supplies. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says nearly 5 million people “could suffer from food insecurity in 2012, with an estimated 1 million people severely food-insecure.”

Ahnna Gudmunds, a WFP Sudan officer, says, “Households will face significant difficulty obtaining food during this period. Volatile food supply and poor diets are likely to intensify the severity of the hunger season.”

It gets worse. Conflict in the Jonglei State, the largest in South Sudan, has caused suffering, displacement and even more hunger. Fighting between the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes has escalated in recent months. The two sides have a history of violence. One side kidnaps members of the other or steals cattle, the other side then responds with an attack and the cycle of violence continues.

WFP is feeding about 170,800 people displaced by this conflict. This emergency food aid must be followed by longer term development aid.

Gudmunds explains that Jonglei is “one of the most underdeveloped states with a very poor, and sometimes non-existing, infrastructure. Some of the counties may be accessible by road only for few months a year due to rains.”

WFP is rushing to make sure supplies are in place ahead of these expected rains in April. The international community needs to ensure WFP has enough funding to carry on the relief work. South Sudan, which gained its independence last year, is reeling from war and drought.

There is also no shortage of weapons making the conflict between the Lou Neur and Murle that much more dangerous. Both tribes were armed during the decades long Civil War between the South and North Sudan. That war ended in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

A report from the Small Arms Survey says, “Despite post-CPA disarmament drives, both groups have remained armed and active. Their ongoing feud is highly suggestive of civil war-era dynamics, exacerbated by post-CPA jockeying for services, power, and influence.”

The government of South Sudan is currently undertaking a campaign to disarm civilians in Jonglei. Most everyone would agree that disarmament is needed. But the question is when this disarmament should take place.

The Enough project warns that the time for disarmament is not right and will undermine the peace process. There needs to be confidence-building, dialogue and humanitarian aid well in process before traveling the disarmament path.

Amanda Hsiao, Enough Project South Sudan field researcher, says, “Without the capacity to simultaneously disarm rival communities, to ensure the security of disarmed communities, and to stop the flow of arms back into the hands of civilians, forcible disarmament at this moment will undermine, rather than facilitate, the government’s efforts toward peace-building in Jonglei.”

Jennifer Christian, Enough Project Sudan policy analyst, adds, “What the people of Jonglei require right now is humanitarian assistance, security, and the establishment of a mechanism through which they may peacefully resolve their grievances with other communities.”

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is focusing a great extent of its peacebuilding in South Sudan on development. For CRS only hope will light the road to peace in Sudan. Peace and development are clearly linked.

Sara Fajardo, a CRS officer says, “Decades of violent conflict have left their mark. We need to provide alternatives to violence by investing in ‘peace dividends’ such as building roads, digging borehole wells, helping to strengthen the health care system, and providing seeds and tools for agriculture to name a few. These are all crucial components in giving people a reason to hope and build a future. ”

CRS is working on these projects in South Sudan as well as reinforcing relief efforts for the displaced. However, funding for these projects is key. CRS, for instance, faced low funding for its school feeding programs in Bor County, Jonglei. These programs came to an end last year.

Also crucial will be ensuring the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has enough resources to help protect civilians. Hilde Johnson, director of the mission, says, “UNMISS has reinforced its presence in key areas of Jonglei State and is conducting continuous air patrols to deter violence.”

It was such air patrols that detected and sounded the alarm of a large force of the Lou Neur readying to attack the Murle in December.

Dialogue, development and disarmament need to take place in South Sudan. Until they do hunger and misery will continue in this impoverished nation. Right now, South Sudan is trapped in a major food crisis, with the future of millions of people hanging in the balance.

Article first published as South Sudan Faces Hunger Emergency on Blogcritics.

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Top Foreign Policy Goal for 2012: Feeding the Children of Drought and Conflict

As the State of the Union is upon us for 2012, let’s look briefly at history to tell us what should be atop the foreign policy agenda.

When the fighting of World War One came to an end on November 11th, 1918, there still was an “enemy” who remained on the offensive. The war had ruined agriculture and food supply systems, thereby unleashing the most unrelenting of foes–hunger and malnutrition.

Lieutenant Harwood Stacy saw in Poland such terrible conditions with infants that “looked terribly emaciated.” He said a basic item like milk “was as precious as gold.” A Polish hospital director pleaded for food for children “so we may supply the needs of these little ones who cannot comprehend why they are not fed.”

The American Relief Administration, backed by Congressional funding as well as donations from citizens, came to the rescue. Millions of children were spared a lifetime sentence from malnutrition that damages both mind and body. Without this aid World War One, which leveled enough suffering, would have led to millions more lives being lost.

All it took was providing the children meals, even similar to the “penny lunch” programs that had been pioneered in Cincinnati, Ohio in the early 1900s by teacher Ella Walsh. Another Cincinnati “penny lunch” organizer, Alice Wheatley, was also a supporter of the Red Cross during World War One. It was the Red Cross which provided school meals to thousands of children in France during the World War One years.

Now, nearly 100 years later, a different hunger crisis is unfolding that demands to be the top foreign policy priority. For hunger has started a new powerful offensive against the poor and vulnerable. Last year a massive drought occurred in East Africa placing over 13 million people at risk of starvation. That crisis is still ongoing and humanitarian aid has to keep flowing. However, there is also drought striking large parts of West Africa as well.

People in Niger, Chad, Mauritania and other parts of the Sahel region of Africa are feeling the effects of reduced harvests and high food prices. A massive humanitarian disaster waits around the corner if we do not act now.

In some parts of Yemen, a country known in the U.S. as a haven for Al Qaeda, child malnutrition rates rival those of famine-ravaged Somalia. Aid agencies, who rely on voluntary donations, cannot keep up with the growing tragedy.

In the new nation of South Sudan, conflict among tribes continues to leave many people hungry and displaced. Peace has not yet been achieved with neighboring Sudan. To add to this, drought has struck. In North Darfur, the UN World Food Programme says the “overall food security situation has considerably deteriorated compared to November 2010.” Poor harvests and high food prices now strike at a population trying to build peace.

In Afghanistan, a country devastated by years of conflict, drought hit 14 provinces last year. Low funding for aid agencies led to a reduction in food and agricultural assistance to the needy population. Food for peace therefore has a limited reach when it’s most needed.

In 2012 America’s top foreign policy objective should be to rehabilitate the children of drought and conflict across the globe. For if we do not, we give up on peace and stunt the future of so many suffering countries.

This is not an insurmountable challenge. It is far less expensive than war. But it needs to get on the agenda of our leaders in Washington and in the public conscience as it did after World War One, World War II and the Korean War. Feeding the children of “drought and conflict” is the U.S. foreign policy mission for this new year.

Article first published as Top Foreign Policy Goal for 2012: Feeding the Children of Drought and Conflict on Blogcritics.

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Big East Basketball to Shine Light on War-torn and Hungry Sudan

By 1 June, about 40,000 people displaced from Abyei after the town's takeover by Sudan Armed Forces had been registered in the Abyei area, Unity State and the greater Bahr El-Ghazal region and were receiving humanitarian assistance. Photos: UNMIS/Issac Gideon.

This Wednesday, when Villanova University squares off against Seton Hall, you can expect another competitive Big East Conference basketball game. This game will differ from others in that it will seek to build support for Peace in Sudan.

Villanova and Seton Hall are partnering with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in “Playing for Peace” to help bring an end to conflict, hunger and suffering in Sudan and South Sudan. Sudan and South Sudan fought a decades-long civil war that ended in 2005 with a peace agreement. However, violence has continued and the agreement has not been fully implemented.

Peace activism will take place throughout the game. Students will be handed a flyer showing how they can help by contacting the White House and urging the administration to support the peace process.

South Sudan became the world’s newest country last July, gaining independence from Sudan. However, peace in the region remains elusive as conflict and border tensions continue. It is critical that UN peacekeeping missions be supported and fully funded to protect civilians, and help establish conditions to build a lasting peace and development.

A peacekeeping mission called UNISFA was deployed to Abyei, which is a disputed territory on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. This oil rich region is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan, and fighting has taken place there for years despite the 2005 agreement. UNISFA is there to make sure the area is demilitarized and made safe for civilians.

The threats go beyond the guns. Hunger and poverty still dominate the countryside. Drought often harms food production efforts and malnutrition is a major threat to children. Displacement from conflict makes this situation even more desperate. Conflict exists not only between South Sudan and Sudan, but also between rival tribes.

At this very moment, aid agencies are trying to help 50,000 displaced persons in the Jonglei State of South Sudan. CRS reports that the ethnic conflict between the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes has claimed an estimated 1,000 lives in the past six months. One of the driving forces behind this internal conflict is the lack of resources. Hunger and poverty feed desperation and violence.

Isaac Boyd of CRS Sudan says, “After nearly four decades of working in Sudan and South Sudan, CRS recognizes that sustainable development and peace are tightly interwoven. To contribute to a lasting improvement in the level of basic services and economic opportunities available to people throughout South Sudan, it is imperative to support communities to find meaningful, concrete ways to resolve their differences and put an end to destructive conflict. Simultaneously, tensions between groups are often exacerbated by the scarcity of basic services like access to water, schools, or health clinics. Development and peace have to happen at the same time.”

Will there be enough resources for aid agencies to reinforce the drive for peace? CRS is sponsoring emergency aid as well as long-term food security projects. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is reporting that its 2012 relief operation for South Sudan is short 179 million dollars. WFP relies entirely on voluntary donations from governments and the public.

Without food, children in Sudan will suffer lasting physical and mental damage, thereby stunting the next generation. Without food for schoolchildren, education will suffer. A national school lunch program still needs to be established.

Playing for Peace is part of a series of events about Sudan sponsored by Villanova University. For more information, please visit the CRS newswire.

Article first published as Big East Basketball to Shine Light on War-Torn and Hungry Sudan on Blogcritics.

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American Epic Highlights War, Peace, and Child Hunger

This child in Sudan is receiving food aid from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Many more children in the world are in need of food safety nets. (NRC Sudan photo)

Herbert Hoover’s book American Epic Volume Four gives a country-by-country breakdown of the siege of hunger after World War II. Detailed reports reveal the crisis of child hunger and the desperate race to find solutions.

The book is a great history of the World War II era and the fight to save millions from starvation after the fighting had ended. It tells a story not often covered in the histories of this time period.

But I think the book represents more than an outstanding history. It’s something we can learn from in today’s struggle to win peace.

When I saw Hoover’s book a few years ago, I asked: Why not have something like this today? Why not have a country-by-country look at all-important child feeding? I felt this was not being covered enough in the news. The “silent tsunami” of high food prices had struck and the number of hungry children worldwide was fast growing.

So I contacted Jennifer Parmelee of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Washington, D.C. I presented my idea and it took off from there. It led to the creation of an interview series covering school feeding programs worldwide and then the book Ending World Hunger.

Laura Sheahen of Catholic Relief Services/Caritas also was very instrumental in helping develop the series. The feature continues online at Blogcritics today with its most recent update including the Norwegian Refugee Council providing school meals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The idea is to bring the issue of child hunger into the spotlight and talk about solutions, and to connect the issues of hunger and nutrition to the pursuit of peace and development. This is something American Epic does.

A school meal program for Germany saved that country after World War II and it can do the same for others today.

Yet hunger has not been made enough of a priority and low funding plagues relief operations in Afghanistan, Yemen, Ivory Coast, Haiti, Sudan, and other nations. In East Africa, critical months lie ahead in saving the region after the massive drought last year.

In Sudan food is vital to the peace process. Whether it’s the nutritious peanut paste plumpy’nut (or plumpy’sup for malnourished infants), food for school age children, or agricultural development, it can mean the difference between peace and conflict.

Currently, low funding for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has led to reductions in its school feeding for Afghan children. In Benin, WFP is able to feed only 64 percent of children in the school feeding program. The funding shortages again limit the reach of the program.

There is a lot more that can be done to fight hunger around the globe.

Hoover’s American Epic showed what a food ambassador could do to rally cooperation, both domestically and internationally, for fighting hunger, and why it’s so important that child feeding programs get the support they need. Nutrition matters.

As Hoover said, “Civilization marches forward upon the feet of healthy children. We cannot have recovery of civilization in nations with a legacy of stunted bodies or distorted and embittered minds.”

I think the Congress needs to think of this when they are drawing up the new budget. Think of what the consequences will be of reducing U.S. international food aid – what that will mean for future generations, and what it will mean for our prospects for peace.

I think that is a key lesson to take from Hoover’s American Epic.

Article first published as American Epic Highlights War, Peace, and Child Hunger on Blogcritics.

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