Sudan's Food Crisis May Escalate to Famine

By: Justin Chan

Sudan is currently facing rising food costs, but a larger problem is looming.

As the country's inflation continues to increase, experts have cautioned that Sudan could be on the brink of famine by March. According to AlertNet, the Famine Early Warning System warned that the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states could reach emergency levels next month. Tensions between the government and rebels in those two states have forced approximately 140,000 refugees to flee to South Sudan and Ethiopia. The United Nations similarly warned that the number could reach at least 500,000 in the next few months.

"(This is) a looming catastrophe that will make Syria, in terms of total casualties, look like a gang war in the park," said Sudan analyst Eric Reeves. "There's no food getting in. There's no food being produced. All the food reserves were consumed by mid-summer. They are eating grass. They are eating inedible berries."

Humanitarian organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to provide aid to such war-torn areas. Khartoum, Sudan's capital, has refused to allow agencies to provide assistance to areas that are controlled by the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement-North. It fears that the aid will be given to the rebels rather than the civilians in need. Still, it has not stopped some organizations from filing requests for access. "We submitted a new proposal to the government on how (rebel) SPLM-N controlled areas could be assessed and reached with emergency food assistance," said Amor Almagro, an information officer at the World Food Programme  in Sudan. "We are awaiting to hear from them."

Khartoum's refusal to allow agencies to provide humanitarian aid to rebel-controlled areas  is nothing new. "This is a regime that did the same thing in the 1990s to these people; that has relentlessly denied humanitarian relief in Darfur; that denied, at times, over one and a half million people in South Sudan access from Operation Lifeline Sudan," said Reeves.

Since fighting broke out in South Kordofan last June and in Blue Nile last September, hundreds have been forced to take shelter elsewhere. The international community has been working to reach some sort of compromise that will lessen the severity of the situation. "We are calling for the U.S. to work multilaterally to get support for some kind of alternative mechanism to be getting food in there or to be prepositioning food on the borders to be ready for this situation," said Dan Sullivan, director of policy and government relations at United to End Genocide.

Photo: United Nations Photo

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