Sudan Emergency: Update December 1999

Sudan is a country stricken by decades of civil war and intermittent natural disasters including drought, flooding and famine. Suffering from a 16-year civil war, Sudan has one of the world's highest numbers of internally displaced populations - reaching close to 4 million people.
Catholic Relief Services has been working in Sudan for 12 years and provides a combination of immediate food assistance, agricultural rehabilitation, and long-term development projects for the people of southern Sudan. The agency serves the internally displaced people in the areas of Eastern and Western Equatoria, the Bahr El Ghazal and Lakes regions of southern Sudan. Many of them have fled their homes looking for food.

In July 1998, word had spread that thousands of people were suffering from extreme malnutrition in the Bahr El Ghazal region of southern Sudan. CRS moved into the region and immediately began distributing food to thousands of internally displaced people, many of whom had walked from the town of Wau, approximately 100 miles away.

As many as 250,000 people died in 1998 from war-related famine and illnesses. At the peak of the crisis, an estimated 2.6 million people required emergency assistance. Currently, the malnutrition level has reduced from about 62% in July 1998 to about 13 - 17 % in July 1999.

Who is CRS Reaching and With What Aid?

Given these improvements, today CRS/Sudan is focusing more on strengthening the Diocese of Rumbek in the areas of accountability, food distribution, delivery, storage and financial management. A CRS/Sudan Food Manager is working with the Diocese of Rumbek as the Diocese continues to take over caring for its traditional beneficiaries such as the elderly and lepers.

Recent Accomplishments

The agency is continuing food security programs among the internally displaced populations. This emergency project integrates food aid and with the distribution of seeds and tools. As of August 1999 the internally displaced people have been able to harvest and eat the food they have produced locally. Crops planted for the second season that started in September include groundnuts, maize, sorghum and root crops including sweet potato and cassava.

CRS/Sudan continues to support refugees returning home from northern Uganda. In an effort to help them settle back in to their communities, the agency provides returnees with food, non-food items, and seeds and tools.

CRS has distributed:

More than 262 metric tons of sorghum, lentils, vegetable oil and salt from the US Government to a target population of nearly 18,000 in the towns of Nimule, Lobone, Ikotos, and New Cush

Monthly relief rations to 31,000 people who were unable to produce enough crops to feed the household, or needed additional food to supplement what has been grown

Emergency kits for 5100 households

Both supplementary feeding centers and therapeutic feeding centers in the Rumbek areas reaching more than 1200 people a month many of whom are children, elderly malnourished adults, the blind and pregnant and lactating mothers

Additional Assistance

Throughout 2000, CRS/Sudan will continue with agriculture, water and sanitation, basic health education, capacity building and emergency preparedness assistance.

Promote Capacity Building, through the support of women's groups, farmer groups, village water communities and other local organizations;

Promote other forms of food production, so families can work to support themselves as much as possible;

Provide training to health educators;

Provide small loans to individuals to help them establish entrepreneurial enterprises; and

Support Sudanese non-governmental organizations to advance the development of civil society


Seeds of civil war were sown during the British occupation of Sudan when the North received the abundance of resources and development attention. The North was also developed as a predominately Arabic culture which embraced Islam and the Arabic language; Christianity was introduced and continues to dominate in the South. Since independence in 1956, the vast cultural and economic divides in the country have fed a civil war in which the North is fighting to maintain control of the country while Southern factions fight to gain equal rights, access to resources and a voice in government.

The security situation has improved tremendously in southern Sudan. Two of the largest tribes in this region, the Dinka and the Nuer, have recently held peace talks to end their long running conflict. The elders from the Nuer tribe stepped foot onto Dinka land for the first time in almost 10 years. A few areas that were agreed upon at the initial peace meetings were:

  • to stop the raiding of cattle (which is the livelihood of the Dinka),
  • to allow free movement of each tribe onto the other's land, and
  • to encourage trade, particularly cattle trade, and exchange of goods in each other's market.

The Nuer tribe will be hosting the next round of peace talks where the Dinka tribe will be welcomed onto their soil.

Despite the improvements in security in Bahr El Ghazal, the potential conflict between the government of Sudan and Sudanese People's Liberation Army, and also inter-factional fighting, remains problematic. This often causes sporadic displacements of the population. However, CRS/Sudan remains able to respond to these sometimes unpredictable and disastrous situations.

Often blamed for the 1998 famine in the Bahr El Ghazal, the well known warlord Kerobino Kuanyin Bol was killed in a reported mutiny in September.

To carry out its emergency work, CRS/Sudan operates 11 base camps in southern Sudan. The main office of the CRS/Sudan program is in Nairobi, Kenya from where the entire program is directed and communications and security are maintained to the field locations. The primary local partner of CRS in its emergency program is the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA).