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The sustained aerial bombardments by the Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, over the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan have displaced thousands of families from their homes. While some have fled into the region’s caves for shelter, 25,000 people have migrated over the Sudan-South Sudan border to seek safety in refugee camps. For those who have remained in the Nuba Mountain caves, the paralyzing fear of Antonov airstrikes have prevented any farming from taking place. Without the ability to harvest the land, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network believes the remaining population will be in emergency conditions by March. As for the thousands of individuals who have reached refugee camps in South Sudan, they also live in echoing fear of SAF attacks and growing food insecurity.
Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), long-time champion for Sudan, recently traveled to South Sudan and is the first U.S. Representative to visit Yida refugee camp, which is located just seven miles from the Sudan-South Sudan border. After witnessing the urgency of conditions on the ground, on February 27 Congressman Wolf teamed up with Tom Andrews, president and CEO of United to End Genocide, or UEG, to hold a press conference at the Capitol to publicize the alarming rates of food insecurity within Sudan and in South Sudan’s refugee camps.
Photos from the press conference on 27 February 2012. (Julia Stebbins/Enough Project)
As Andrews emphasized at the event, President Omar al-Bashir is “using weapons of mass starvation” to wipe out Sudan’s Christian and black populations. The restrictions on crop planting posed by persistent SAF airstrikes over South Kordofan are exacerbated by the rapidly approaching five-month rainy season in which food supplies will be significantly depleted. If seeds are not planted before the rains come, thousands will be without harvest in the coming months.
Representative Wolf and UEG called upon the Obama administration to address Bashir’s systematic targeting of civilians in Sudan and the SAF’s frequent cross-border bombings into South Sudan, and to ensure the delivery of adequate humanitarian aid into the region. The measures presented in the “Triparite Proposal” are insufficient; the adminstration must work with Khartoum to negotiate an agreement that allows international humanitarian organizations into South Kordofan. While Yida camp is open to humanitarian aid, Congressman Wolf argues that the necessary amount of food, seeds, and tools has not yet been delivered.
Due to Yida’s close proximity to the border between Sudan and South Sudan, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, claimed the camp’s location is not safe and has refused to acknowledge it as an acceptable refugee camp. The UNHCR has encouraged the refugee leaders of the camp to move to a site in Nyell, Upper Nile State but inhabitants are unwilling to relocate. Although Yida may have increased security threats because of its vicinity to Sudan, the occupants prefer the proximity to their homes across the border as well as the agricultural potential of the land. Moving the camp further south would put the refugees in swampland, which poses health and agricultural challenges. Yida leaders have submitted their concerns to the UNHCR, but the agency has yet to address the refugees’ reluctance.
While in Yida, Congressman Wolf teamed up with citizen journalist Ryan Boyette—who has been a key source for Enough’s Satellite Sentential Project—to interview refugees living in the camp about what drove them from their homes in South Kordofan, and what can be done to stop the violence.
Ryan Boyette also recently escorted journalist Ann Curry during her trip to South Sudan’s Nuba Mountains. Check out her February 29 report on NBC’s “Rock Center” spotlighting Boyette and his incredible courage in covering the dire situation in South Kordofan.
Annie Callaway also contributed to this post.