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Aid Group Says Millions in Southern Sudan Need Help

  • Lisa Schlein

The World Food Program says the international focus on conflict-ridden Darfur is overshadowing the critical needs of millions of people in southern Sudan. The WFP warns of starvation and increased insecurity in southern Sudan if more money is not forthcoming.

The World Food Program says the plight of millions of people in southern and eastern Sudan is going unnoticed. It says their critical needs are being overlooked because of the attention-getting situation in Darfur.

The World Food Program says the plight of millions of people in southern and eastern Sudan is going unnoticed. It says their critical needs are being overlooked because of the attention-getting situation in Darfur.

As a consequence, WFP says the problems of tens of thousands of internally displaced people, as well as thousands of Eritrean refugees in Kassala camp in Eastern Sudan are not being addressed. The problems of thousands of homeless people in Port Sudan are being ignored. And now, southern Sudan has become an additional concern.

WFP Regional Director for East and Central Africa, Holdbrook Arthur says hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of displaced people and refugees are likely to return to the homes they fled in the south. This, following a peace agreement between the government in the north and Sudan Liberation Army in the south in January. He says these people are in need of assistance, but the money to care for them is not available.

"We have received only 24 percent of the total amount of money we needed to support the operations in southern Sudan and the operations in eastern Sudan," he said. "What we have noticed two weeks ago is that we have seen a lot of population movement from Bar-El-Ghazal, Jongle and all those areas. They are moving in search of food. Our fear is that if we do not take care, they are going to swamp the IDP [internally displaced people] camps."

Earlier in the year, the World Food Program launched an appeal for $300 million to cover 3.2 million people in southern and eastern Sudan. So far, the agency has received $78 million. A separate $560 million appeal for Darfur has raised slightly more than half that amount.

WFP director in Geneva, Daly Belgasmi warns of a humanitarian catastrophe if the critical shortfall for the southern Sudan operation is not redressed.

"So, no food," he said. "It is an increase on malnutrition especially for vulnerable group - children and women-lactating and pregnant and the children under five. The rate of malnutrition will be higher and we may face a situation of starvation. That is the situation because people they live on food aid and without this assistance, it will be very critical for them."

Mr. Belgasmi says the World Food Program already has been forced to cut food rations for thousands of refugees and displaced people because of lack of money. He says many of these people are surviving on only 450 calories a day.

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