Amid the mounting political challenges in Sudan, the United Nations signaled this week that it is gearing up for a massive food shortage in southern Sudan.
“On top of the one million people we already plan for assistance this year there will be about another 300,000 people who we will need to provide assistance quite urgently between now and December this year," said Kenro Oshidari, the World Food Programme (WFP) representative in Sudan, according to alJazeera.
Southern Sudan’s dire development needs have made the region a long-time recipient of U.N. assistance, but recent conflict between tribes and poor growing conditions this year have left many more people in need of basic services. (For more details about these developments, see the latest update from the U.N. humanitarian agency.) With aid groups increasingly targeted for attacks and rains making remote areas inaccessible, the WFP representative said his agency is leaning towards re-starting food drops.
“It’s going to be very costly but at the same time it’s going to be very much needed," Kenro said. WFP estimates it will cost $44 million to purchase the additional food and pay for the larger airplanes needed for distribution.
The humanitarian situation in southern Sudan deteriorates as the country moves ever closer to a national election next year and a key referendum in 2011 to decide whether Sudan will remain united or split into two countries. Many unconfirmed reports have suggested that the government in the northern capital of Khartoum may be arming some of the groups in southern Sudan with the goal of destabilizing the region prior to the self-determination referendum.
Of course, nature has dealt a blow to southern Sudan this season, but on top of that, many southerners are expected to endure further hardship this year as their lifeline – distributions like WFP’s – is increasingly threatened by violence, some of it likely politically-motivated.
Photo: Families collect water in Rumbek, southern Sudan. (Enough/Maggie Fick)