Only two weeks to head off famine in Sudan

THE WORST famine in nearly a decade is threatening southern Sudan, with familiar images of starving children beginning to emerge, but the aid world is divided over what to do about it.

Last week, Britain's Disasters and Emergency Committee, which brings together 15 national aid agencies such as Oxfam, Christian Aid and Save the Children, decided against launching an emergency appeal. It argued that the problem was not the availability of supplies, but gaining access to the starving in the midst of Sudan's civil war, and called on the international community to put pressure on the combatants to allow aid to reach the people who needed it.

Christian Aid has launched an appeal on its own, however, and other agencies, including UN bodies such as Unicef and the World Food Programme, say they are critically short of funds.

The WFP has asked governments for $65.8m to finance emergency air-drops of food. But even if it gets the money, it needs permission from the Khartoum government to make more flights from Lokichokio in north-western Kenya, and so far it is still waiting. In February and March the government banned all relief flights.

Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, is among those who believe Sudan's Islamic government is not interested in preventing famine in the south, where it is fighting the Christian rebel movement, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Last week she accused Khartoum of deliberately causing starvation by blocking aid, but others say the SPLA also fails to show concern for civilians caught up in the war.

While the rains have failed for two years, apparently due to El Nino, what has put at least 350,000 people on the brink of starvation is the continual fighting, which prevents harvests being planted or harvested and disrupts aid efforts. Marie Staunton, deputy director of Unicef in Britain, who has just returned from southern Sudan, said that during one week of her visit, Unicef had been unable to land its aircraft at half of the 10 locations to which it is delivering supplies for malnourished children.

The worst-affected area is Bahr al Ghazal province, where an SPLA warlord who defected to the government some years ago switched sides again in January, attacking Wau, the provincial capital, and displacing thousands of people. "They have already survived a great deal of hardship, " said Ms Staunton, "but now the most vulnerable people - babies, the elderly and children who have lost their parents - are beginning to die." Unicef is feeding orphaned children such as eight-year-old Adel Tong, who has been looking after her brother Ding, 4, and sister Achat, 3, after their parents died.

"A great deal depends on the next two weeks," said Ms Staunton. "Crops must be planted now in time for the summer rains, if they come. Other agencies have brought in seeds and tools, but unless other food supplies arrive in time, starving people will eat the seeds rather than planting them. If that happens, all 350,000 people in Bahr al Ghazal will be starving by October."

Tomorrow, the Sudanese government and the SPLA are due to begin peace talks in Nairobi, but for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in southern Sudan what matters is a bureaucratic decision in Khartoum. Unless permission is given within days for more flights, another famine will set in - and man rather than nature will be to blame.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz