Hunger stalks 1.7m Sudanese: WFP launches multi-million dollar appeal

News Release
Nairobi - The United Nations World Food Programme today launched a US$58 million international appeal for funds to feed 1.7 million hungry Sudanese each month in both rebel and government held areas of the country until the end of the year. The majority of the needy are in southern Sudan.

Despite an overall better harvest and improvement in the nutritional situation across the country, hunger will continue to stalk about 1.7 million Sudanese people affected by war, drought and floods this year.

"Thankfully, the famine that hit southern Sudan in 1998 is over," said Mohamed Saleheen, WFP, Country Director for Sudan. "However, hundreds of thousands of southern Sudanese are still at risk of hunger and malnutrition," he said.

"The families that survived the famine are amongst the poorest of the population. For them the fine line between mere survival and recovery remains a fragile one," he said.

According to findings from the latest WFP Annual Needs Assessment (ANA) report covering southern Sudan, 1999 has been a year of mixed fortunes for southern Sudanese. In places where the rains have been ideal for cultivation, insecurity has driven people from their homes and fields. And where the food and health needs greatest, a combination of insecurity and humanitarian flight denials has sometimes prevented WFP from feeding the people in need.

In some locations, floods too have thwarted farmers attempts to cultivate and harvest a decent crop for this year.

WFP says that the situation remains most critical in the northern part of Bahr El Ghazal and in the Western Upper Nile region.

"In Bahr el Ghazal, although the majority of feeding-centres have closed and many people have returned to their homes and reaped some harvest, hundreds of thousands of families continue to battle against drought, flood, disease, hunger and the ever-present threat of war," said Saleheen.

The WFP ANA report says that the situation in Aweil West, in northern Bahr el Ghazal is "desperate" and "rapidly worsening" due to a combination of militia raids, internal displacement and exceptional flooding in the low-lying areas. These factors make Aweil West an area with one of the highest food aid needs for the year 2000.

Due to flooding, the amount of maize produced for most households in Aweil West is only half that harvested in other areas of the region, making this the third disastrous year in a row for the people of Aweil West. Compounding the problem has been the steady stream of people returning from the northern areas in the County, placing additional pressure on the already poor and struggling community.

Insecurity along the railway line which links the government held garrisons of Wau and Aweil, also plagues the populations in Aweil West. In the past months, people in villages have had their homes, cattle and precious crops burned or destroyed.

In the region of Upper Nile, particularly Western Upper Nile, rampant insecurity compounded by a lack of access makes it a region of grave concern for WFP. Some 250,000 people - half of the population - will need food aid this year.

An estimated 30 - 40 per cent of the population in Western Upper Nile had no harvest at the end of 1999 as they were repeatedly forced to move off their land during the cultivation period.

Limited access to affected people, for security reasons, continue to strain WFP's work monitoring population movements and their food needs in Western Upper Nile. Latest reports from the field indicate that in the past months up to 40,000 people have fled the region to neighbouring Bahr el Ghazal. Many of these are eking out a living in the surrounding malarial swamps, east and west of the main towns of Koch and Nyal.

"While conflict continues conditions for a return to famine remain an ever present spectre. Although WFP has managed to stabilise the nutritional and food situation in most areas, the continuation of conflict and adverse climatic factors will cause food shortages in the foreseeable future, " said Saleheen.

The World Food Programme is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 1999, WFP fed more than 86 million people in 82 countries - including most of the world's refugees and displaced people.

For more information please contact:

Lindsey Davies
WFP/Nairobi Information Officer
Tel. 254-2-622179

Trevor Rowe
WFP/Rome Spokesman
Tel. 39-06 6513-2602