Food Crisis looms in Sudan regions

FAO calls for urgent action, funds

5 October 2011, Rome - Urgent action is needed to prevent a looming humanitarian and food crisis in two strife-affected regions on the border between Sudan and the newly-independent nation of South Sudan, FAO warned today.

Food availability in Blue Nile and South Kordofan is forecast to be significantly reduced following renewed fighting between government troops and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which has disrupted the major crop season.

The fighting has coincided with the region’s lean season when household food stocks are already at their lowest.

At least 235 000 people in both areas need help.

Crop failures

Blue Nile and South Kordofan are two of Sudan’s main sorghum producing areas. The latest fighting coupled with erratic rainfall means next month’s harvest is expected to generally fail.

In South Kordofan, people fled at the start of the planting season, so were unable to sow seeds. In Blue Nile, fighting erupted later in the season so seeds were planted but people were forced to abandon their crops.

Already, the shortage of food stocks has caused prices to double. The price of a 90 kg bag of sorghum, which cost 70 Sudanese pounds (US$26) earlier this year, is now 140 Sudanese pounds and FAO expects prices will continue to rise steeply.

Overgrazing, disease threat

Seasonal livestock migration has also been disrupted in both states causing large herds to be concentrated in small areas along the border.

“This is causing overcrowding and could lead to outbreaks of livestock disease,” said Cristina Amaral, Chief of FAO’s Emergency Operations Service. “Tensions between farmers and nomadic herders over water and land access may also be exacerbated.”

A helping hand

All international aid agencies have been barred from Blue Nile, so the true scale of the situation there is unknown.

A small FAO team of national staff is currently on the ground in South Kordofan. Although their office was looted they were able to distribute seeds and tools to 20 000 vulnerable households in the calmer areas. This timely support will help provide food for those most in need.

FAO is trying to reach a further 20 000 households in South Kordofan and 15 000 in Blue Nile with seeds to grow winter vegetables in place of this year’s sorghum harvest.

FAO is seeking some $3.5 million for its operations.

Photo: AFP Photo/Paul Banks
Herds are being concentrated in small areas along the border in the affected areas.