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Oxfam Warns of Impending Food Crisis in Sudan

  • Gabe Joselow

Thousands of displaced persons from Abyei collect food rations in a makeshift camp in Turalei, southern Sudan. (File Photo - May 27, 2011)

Thousands of displaced persons from Abyei collect food rations in a makeshift camp in Turalei, southern Sudan. (File Photo - May 27, 2011)

The international aid organization Oxfam says conflicts along the border between Sudan and South Sudan are putting civilians at risk of a major food crisis. The group warns a food shortage could add to the recent surge of refugees fleeing south.

Oxfam says insecurity along the border between the two Sudans has restricted agriculture and inhibited aid work, putting pressure on food resources in the area.

The group is particularly concerned about conditions in Sudan's Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states, where the northern government's armed forces have been battling rebel groups allied with the south.

“There are estimates that the people in parts of those states will be reaching an emergency level, which is phase four, which is one below famine," said Joanna Trevor, Oxfam humanitarian policy advisor. "This is because of not being able to get to the areas to plant and now to not harvest following the rainy season due to the conflict and insecurity.”

The famine early warning network FEWS NET predicts a near-famine food emergency could take hold in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan by March, if humanitarian access does not improve.

Sudan has prohibited foreign aid groups from operating in the two states. U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, following a recent meeting in Khartoum, said she urged the government to lift the ban.

The fighting has also spurred a surge of refugees who are fleeing across the border for camps in South Sudan. Oxfam says 55,000 have arrived in recent months and the numbers continue to grow.

Trevor says at the moment, aid agencies are able to deliver services within the camps, but that continued violence poses a constant threat to those efforts.

“I think that security is going to be one of the big concerns going forward, which is why at Oxfam we have been asking or calling for the international community alongside the African Union to really push for a cessation of hostilities and ensure that the fighting stops and that people can receive aid,” said Trevor.

In November, Sudanese forces bombed a refugee camp in the south, forcing some aid agencies to pull out.

Tensions have remained high between the two Sudans since South Sudan declared independence in July. But the fighting has not only been between north and south.

In the past few weeks, tens of thousands of people have been displaced internally in South Sudan by inter-tribal fighting in Jonglei State. Workers from the medical group Doctors Without Borders were driven from their posts in the most recent clashes.

The South Sudanese government declared a humanitarian emergency in Jonglei and has asked aid agencies to provide relief.