For three years, the government of Sudan has refused to grant humanitarian agencies entry into rebel-controlled areas of its war-torn South Kordofan state. Despite numerous requests for permission to serve needy populations in these areas, Sudan’s government continues to deny hundreds of thousands of vulnerable civilians life-saving assistance. At the same time, the government has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis by accelerating its own aerial bombardment campaign and ground attacks in these areas.
Taken together, the desperate situation of the people in rebel-controlled areas, the Sudanese government’s aid blockade, and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, along with statements recently attributed to senior commanders in the government forces, lay the foundation for a case of crimes against humanity by extermination.
Humanitarian disaster in the Nuba Mountains
To better understand the toll of the government-imposed humanitarian blockade, in August 2014, a team of anonymous researchers conducted a detailed assessment of the living conditions of the people in the parts of South Kordofan controlled by the rebels. Their research found that households are cultivating 10 percent less land this year than in the previous year. The cumulative effect of three years of unrelenting war is that, alarmingly, cultivation has now dropped to one-fifth of pre-war levels. As a consequence, 70 percent of displaced households are consistently experiencing moderate or severe hunger.
Other indicators are equally alarming.
- Fifty-three percent of those surveyed in South Kordofan stated that the children in their home were not attending school regularly.
- Fifty-four percent claim that their primary source of water dries up at some point during the year.
- Forty-seven percent have to walk more than five kilometers to reach a health facility.
- Sixty-six percent of households stated that their child had malaria in the preceding four weeks.
- Perhaps most striking, 70 percent of households stated that their primary barrier to food security was the insecurity caused by the violence.
Since war broke out in 2011, many from South Kordofan have fled to neighboring South Sudan’s Unity state to escape the violence and receive assistance. There are already some 244,000 refugees living there. However, since civil war is now raging in that part of South Sudan, this valuable escape route has been cut off. South Kordofan’s most vulnerable populations have fewer places in which to seek sanctuary.