Sudan Conflict Exacerbating Serious Drought Crisis : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Conflict Exacerbating Serious Drought Crisis

UN Integrated Regional Information Network July 9, 2001 Nairobi

Below average and sporadic rainfall in many parts of Sudan during the long rains of July-August last year has resulted in poor harvests and water shortages, giving rise to a continuing drought crisis in several areas, according to humanitarian agencies.

With the onset of the normal 'hungry season' in already drought-affected areas and displacement as a result of further fighting in the ongoing civil war, "the prospects for the coming months are not good", according to USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS).

Evidence of the global situation was incomplete but, region by region, the picture was one of serious crisis, FEWS reported in its latest country update. Among the places worst affected are populated areas of Kordofan and Darfur states in western Sudan, as well as parts of Red Sea state and Butana region in the east, and parts of northern Bahr al-Ghazal and Unity States in the south.

The number of affected people stood at almost 700,000 in North Kordofan, over 500,000 in neighbouring North Darfur, some quarter of a million in West Darfur and more than 100,000 in North Kordofan, the agency stated, citing figures from the government's Humanitarian Aid Commission. In the east, in Red Sea Hills, more than 100,000 more people were affected by drought, it said. As of early June, over three million people throughout Sudan were listed as affected by either drought or civil war, or both, FEWS added.

In provinces in the north of Northern Kordofan, all natural sources of water - especially in hafirs (earthen dams or ponds) - were empty due to prolonged drought, and permanent sources of water such as water yards or wells were prone to crowding, according to the nongovernmental organisation CARE (Sudan).

Water prices were in the range 200 to 500 Dinars per jerry can, which has severe negative impact on livelihoods where a sizeable proportion of income would be spend on water alone, CARE added.

The World Food Programme (WFP) reported on 20 June that while food distributions in May appeared to have temporarily stabilised population movements in some parts of Darfur and Kordofan, drinking water scarcity remained a major problem. Mean consumption was reported to be down to one a day in the worst affected rural areas, while the increased consumption of wild foods indicated a rise in the use of extreme coping mechanisms.

Despite food distributions and the injection of cereals into the market from the government of Sudan's strategic reserve, food prices remained high in many areas - and more so in terms of its terms of trade with livestock, making it unattainable for vulnerable sections of the population, WFP reported. Grain prices were up to twice that during the same period last year, and still rising, according to FEWS.

[For further details on the regional situation, see IRIN Horn of Africa Web Special of 9 July: "Struggling with the Legacy of Drought" ( This Web Special is a region-wide look at the devastating effects of drought, and the strategies being designed to break the cycle of disaster, and help recovery.]

In Sudan, the drought is being compounded by other factors, including the displacement of civilian populations because of the war. For instance, more than 30,000 people were displaced in western Bahr al-Ghazal by a recent offensive in which the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) captured the towns of Daym Zubayr and Raga. This has meant extra pressure in South Darfur, where drought-related stresses are already keenly felt, according to humanitarian sources.

Increased fighting has also been reported around the oilfields in Unity State, South Kordofan and in the Nubah Mountains, resulting in both disruption of agricultural production and the displacement of civilians, according to FEWS.

In the southwest, there has been considerable activity by the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) - which was recently reported to have moved base to Lumaraki, about 5 km from the Ugandan border - and that has given rise to concern about some 20,000 people potentially affected in the border area, humanitarian officials told IRIN on Friday.

There was also concern about the situation in Eastern Equatoria, particularly in Kapoeta County, where poor rains for the past three years had depleted herds among the pastoralist community and left them extremely vulnerable, they said. High cereal prices and low livestock prices meant that, as elsewhere, people were now using their available assets to gain access to food, water and fodder they added. Despite this situation, the humanitarian community has no air access and extremely limited access by road due to war-related insecurity.

The nature and scope of the crisis in Sudan was evident in a number of indicators, FEWS reported: drinking water, for both humans and livestock, is in critically short supply in certain drought-affected areas; there is an increase in the use of extreme coping mechanisms, from severe food rationing (at the household level) to the consumption of seed stock; and the shortage of water has limited the scope for livestock-based coping strategies.

Despite recent improvements in pledging, the late arrival of many of the pledges meant it was too late for many food-for-work projects aimed at improving water catchments to mitigate water problems; and that little food could be pre-positioned before the rainy seasons, when many roads will be impassable, according to FEWS.

That created the danger of widespread out-migration from drought-affected areas - with the related disruption to this year's agricultural activities, crucial to the success of the next harvest - and/or the need to use expensive airlifts to reach vulnerable populations, it said.

If the delivery of pledged food took as long as in other recent emergencies, there was the risk that the arrival of substantial shipments of food aid at the time of the 2001 harvest (due in October-November) could depress prices, disrupt production and threaten long-term food security, FEWS added.

The current situation called - in the short term - for an improved speed of response in pledging and food delivery to the most affected areas, and the control of displacement, the agency reported. In the longer term, it was essential to tackle the underlying factors that increased people's vulnerability to drought and displacement, it added.

-- Martin Thompson (, July 10, 2001

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