In July 1998, word spread that thousands of people were suffering from extreme malnutrition in the Bahr El Ghazal region of southern Sudan. Catholic Relief Services moved into the region and 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. The crisis continues, even though you no longer see it on the nightly news.
Who is CRS Reaching and With What Aid?
Catholic Relief Services, which has worked in Sudan for 12 years, continues to provide 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 whom fled their homes looking for food.
Ongoing agency food security programs provide the internally displaced populations with much needed food. A Catholic Relief Services sponsored emergency project integrates food assistance with the distribution of seeds and tools. Now, the internally displaced people have been able to harvest and eat the food they have produced locally. Crops planted include groundnuts, maize, sorghum and root crops including sweet potato and cassava. Over the last years, these efforts have contributed to a 45% reduction in malnutrition.
CRS/Sudan also 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.
Recent Agency Distributions:
More than 380 metric tons of sorghum, lentils, vegetable oil and salt donated to Catholic Relief Services from the US Government reached a target population of nearly 18,000 in the towns of Nimule, Lobone, Ikotos and New Cush. Monthly relief rations were given to 31,000 people who were unable to produce enough crops to feed their families, or needed additional food to supplement what has been grown. Emergency kits were distributed to 5,100 households. Assistance to 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.
Catholic Relief Services' Contributions and Accomplishments by City/Region:
The security around all four base camps has been normal. However, in Akop-Payam reports of violence leave the civilian population in a very vulnerable position.
Despite these security concerns, Catholic Relief Services has been able to continue with programming activities. Specifically:
Nearly 450 latrines have now been built or improved. In addition, the Comboni Primary school latrine is at the final stages of completion. Also, more than 540 trash pits were built for waste management efforts.
Harvesting of sorghum was a major focus in recent weeks. In addition, cassava, sweet potatoes are now ready for cultivation.
Hygienic conditions around water wells have been maintained and the hand-dug wells have been improved. Recently, with support of Catholic Relief Services, a total of 120 latrines have been built or improved.
With support from Catholic Relief Services, women's groups in Cueibet and Mayasth are sewing mosquito nets that will be used for protection from illnesses passed by mosquitos.
The agency's four food assistance stations in this region are continuing with their food distributions.
The second season found farmers busy harvesting groundnuts and making post harvest assessments.
Sorghum was harvested and farmers registered for clearing land, planting and cultivation. Farmer's in Ngaluma, planted sweet potatoes and cowpeas for the first season of 2000.
With a project intending to improve the quality of and access to education in South Sudan, Catholic Relief Services is helping the Catholic dioceses of Yei and Tambura/Yambio acquire learning materials, teacher training and infrastructure for schools. The diocese of El Obeid has already purchased stationery, books and furniture and provided incentives for a teacher.
Catholic Relief Services is also overseeing a project in the Nuba mountain region. The project will include drilling a minimum of 15 boreholes to provide clean water to approximately 13,500 people in Kauda Fod, Kauda Tehet and Gidel. The project is expected to be finished in 8 months.
CRS/Sudan is providing approximately 30,000 beneficiaries in the Equatoria region with non-food items, seeds and tools. In addition, food rations - enough to get the Acholi area through the next harvest season - along with 35 metric tons of seeds will be distributed.
Throughout 2000, CRS/Sudan will continue with agriculture, water and sanitation, basic health education, capacity building and emergency preparedness assistance.
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.
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 1999.
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 people. However, CRS/Sudan remains able to respond to these sometimes unpredictable and disastrous situations.
Overall, CRS has worked in Sudan for 12 years. 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).