, WASHINGTON, Oct 18 – 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 on Thursday 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 that led up to the Horn of Africa famine in 2011.
“If the international community does not respond to these early warning indicators in South Kordofan, the situation could have devastating consequences,” said John Prendergast, the project’s co-founder.
A team of public health experts from the aid group – which has asked not to be identified for security reasons – visited the Nuba 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 and found 14.9 percent were suffering from acute malnutrition.
Some 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.
Some 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.
“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” – Jonathan Hutson.
An estimated 350,000 people are trapped in the area, which has been subjected to a barrage of 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,” Jonathan Hutson, the project’s communications director told AFP.
“So when we come to the dry season… in just a few weeks, the harvest is expected to be very low yield and will only slightly ameliorate the near famine conditions that have already taken hold throughout the Nuba mountains.”
Enough called on the international community to pre-position some 20,000 tons of food, as well as medical supplies, shelters and other goods along the South Kordofan border, and to pressure Khartoum to lift the blockade.