Natsios voices concern over Nubah crisis

Monday, 23 July

US Special Humanitarian Coordinator Andrew Natsios on 21 July warned that a failed harvest in Sudan could result a humanitarian disaster such as that in the mid-1980s, when about a quarter of a million people died from drought, starvation and disease. Natsios said failed rains threatened starvation in parts of the north, while government attacks were exacerbating hunger in the south, Reuters reported.

Natsios said he had raised as a particular concern the issue of government attacks on the Nubah Mountains in the south. He cited reports from aid workers, who had alleged that the army was displacing populations to clear the way for oil drilling, and said military attacks in May had displaced 40,000 to 50,000 people, Reuters reported.

Natsios said the lowlands in the Nubah Mountains, one of the most fertile areas in Sudan, had been turned into a "no-man's-land", with fields lying fallow as people sought shelter in the hills, the report said.

"There are people dying, not in large numbers at this point, but if there is no humanitarian access, the analysis that has been done indicates there will be a rapid deterioration in food security, and the death rates will go up," Associated Press (AP) quoted him as saying.

(The government has severely restricted access to the area for military reasons and relief agencies are rarely able to deliver food or non-food assistance to the vulnerable people.)

Natsios said he had addressed, at the highest level in Khartoum, human rights concerns, including government bombings, restricted humanitarian access, and the alleged condoning of slavery in the south. He also described the bombing of a hospital and a WFP food distribution centre in recent months as "completely unacceptable... anywhere in the world", AP reported.