Hundreds of thousands of people in Sudan’s conflict-torn state of South Kordofan are on the brink of famine as Khartoum keeps up a blockade on aid agencies, a new survey released yesterday said.
The study, carried out by an international aid group and released via the Washington-based Enough Project, warns the situation in the state resembles the conditions of the Horn of Africa famine last year.
A team of public health experts from the aid group — which has asked not to be identified for security reasons — visited the Nuban Mountains under the control of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N).
Large numbers of people displaced by the conflict, which has raged for over a year, are living in caves in the mountains. During the team’s two-week study in August, they assessed some 2,467 children aged from six months to just under five years old and found 14.9 percent were acutely malnourished.
About 81.5 percent of households are surviving on only one meal a day, a huge rise from a year ago when it was only 9.5 percent, and two years ago, when no households reported not being able to eat more than once a day.
Approximately 73.2 percent of households reported having no source of income and 65.7 percent of households had only one week’s supply of food.
The researchers were unable to reach communities living along the frontlines of the conflict pitting Khartoum against the rebels and fear conditions are even worse there.
An estimated 350,000 people are trapped in the area, which has been subjected to a barrage of Sudanese government bombings as they fight the SPLM-N rebels.
Another 70,000 are in similarly dire straits in the Blue Nile state, where rebels are also fighting government forces.
“This is a political famine. Because of near daily bombings by the government of Sudan, its own people have been unable to plant or harvest crops,” Enough’s communications director Jonathan Hutson said.
Enough called on the international community to pre-position some 20,000 tonnes of food, as well as medical supplies, shelters and other goods along the South Kordofan border, and to pressure Khartoum to lift the blockade.
There are no reliable figures on how many people have died in aerial bombing, shelling and firefights across South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where the SPLM-N launched its insurgency last year.
However, the UN has reported a steadily increasing number of hungry people fleeing for South Sudan, joining more than 173,000 others.
Enough Project also called on the African Union to act with the UN Security Council to help negotiate humanitarian access.
The survey was the first on-the-ground assessment of the situation in the region since June last year, and its findings were independently vetted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Aid groups say tens of thousands of people have died of hunger since the middle of last year when a severe drought hit the Horn of Africa.
“While there were early warning indicators for Somalia at that time, interventions were not fully scaled to a level that met the growing need until the situation hit crisis levels and a famine was declared,” the project said.