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Red Cross Warns Sudan Drought Reaching Critical Point - 2003-07-19


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says a prolonged drought in Sudan has left hundreds-of-thousands of people suffering chronic food and water shortages, and vulnerable to malnutrition and disease. The Geneva-based agency says it has received a very poor response to its emergency appeal for $852 million.

The agency says people in Sudan's Red Sea State are only just surviving. It says the situation has reached crisis point after several years of drought. United Nations agencies predict a food deficit of 60 percent for this year.

Red Cross spokesman Denis McClean says the agency issued an emergency appeal to provide food for more than 100,000 of the most vulnerable people in Sudan, about 15,000 of whom are internally displaced. But Mr. McClean says donor support has been very weak, and only 10 percent of what is needed has been received. He says malnutrition is a growing problem.

"The global malnutrition rate for Red Sea State is now running at 29.6 percent, up to 35 percent in some areas," said Mr. McClean. " Families are eating one to two small meals per day of sorghum and watery porridge. Malnutrition and anemia are at the top of the list of common medical conditions suffered by both adults and children over the last six months. They are also the leading causes of death now in this part of Sudan."

Mr. McClean says communities are being torn apart as fathers leave to seek work elsewhere. He says children in Sudan are dropping out of school because of poverty and hunger. He says agricultural activities are being seriously limited, and livestock is disappearing.

"People are either selling off their livestock, or the livestock no longer have access to adequate water," he said. " In fact, the water table has gone down considerably over the last few years to the point where traditional methods like hand-dug wells are no longer sufficient and bore holes need to be put in to access water."

Mr. McClean says there is great danger that the situation will deteriorate further, unless the Federation gets the money it needs to distribute food aid in the provinces of Halayeb and Sinkat. Given the money, he says, Red Crescent volunteers could provide health services and help to build, rehabilitate and maintain water sources in the stricken areas of Sudan.

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