Recent Video: People in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan Are Living in Caves—and Slowly Starving

By Eric Reeves

See October 2012 Report and Video Clip from NUBA REPORTS (; video also available at )—

November 20, 2012 (SSNA) — Marriam Teia pointed to a bag of grain near the doorway of her home, a small inlet in the caves of the Nuba Mountains. "This is the last sack for the kids," she told Nuba Reports. When it runs out, she said, there will be nothing left. Marriam, along with an estimated 100,000 others, have fled their homes in the volatile border region of South Kordofan and sought shelter in the rocky folds of the nearby mountains.

[Note by Eric Reeves: Because Khartoum has permitted no humanitarian access to either the Nuba Mountains or Blue Nile, figures for the number of displaced and those endangered by deteriorating humanitarian conditions can only be estimates.  The two estimates below, from two UN agencies, are almost certainly low—in part because they do not include data or reports from the past several months.  It should also be noted that some 250,000 civilians have fled Blue Nile and South Kordofan for South Sudan and Ethiopia, a number that will soon rise sharply as hunger bites more deeply and Khartoum continues its relentless aerial assault on civilian targets.  For all their uncertainty, these numbers are staggeringly large:

  • UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), SUDAN HUMANITARIAN UPDATE 3rd Quarter 2012: (While UN OCHA acknowledges that it has no presence in areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile controlled by the SPLM/A-North, it nonetheless has aggregated a range of figures, concluding that):


"This brings the estimated number of people displaced or severely affected by this 16-month conflict to 908,000."

  • Displacement was estimated in August to have exceeded 500,000 people in South Kordofan alone:

"Around 520,000 people have fled fighting in South Kordofan alone, Mark Cutts, the acting U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan told reporters in Khartoum." (Reuters [Khartoum] August 8, 2012)

NUBA REPORTS continues: As fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) increases, and the Sudan government continues scorched earth tactics across South Kordofan, citizens of the region are forced out of their lands. Abandoning farms, livestock and goods, their new home offers little: foul water, no crops, and diminishing hope. Our newest video, "A Hidden Hunger: Life in the Caves of the Nuba Mountains" exposes a population on the verge of starvation.

Eighty per cent of households in the Nuba Mountains survive on one meal per day, according to an evaluation by an independent NGO. That number is up from zero percent just two years prior and malnourishment among children is soaring.

In September, Nuba Reports spoke to Dr. Raphael Veicht with German Emergency Doctors. He noted a spike in severely malnourished children arriving at this clinic in the Nuba Mountains. "I haven’t seen any food aid recently," he said. "There’s no aid from anyone, from any UN agency or any foreign government."

NGO’s working in the region say the humanitarian crisis is the direct result of broken promises from the Sudan government. The Tripartite Humanitarian Agreement, signed August 4th by the United Nations, African Union and League of Arab States, assured the release of food aid to South Kordofan. Months later, relief remains nonexistent.

Khartoum denies accusations it is withholding aid, but parties outside the government say otherwise. Amor Almagro, a spokesperson for the World Food Programme, told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism earlier this month that despite such claims, "access has not been granted for us to carry out an assessment and deliver much needed food assistance…"

Frequent bombing by the Sudan government continues to threaten civilians’ safety. More than 100 bombs fell in South Kordofan in October, according to Nuba Reports journalists. Attacks on the ground are also a concern for citizens as the SAF burns villages as part of the violent campaign against areas under Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) control.

For many, the journey to Yida refugee camp in South Sudan is a daunting choice. With over 65,000 people inhabiting a camp intended for 15,000, living conditions are poor, food stocks are low and the long walk there is dangerous.

Life in the mountains is not a solution for displaced people, however. Cave life is unsustainable, especially without land to harvest or hope for food aid. Violence surrounds the mountains but their home villages are destroyed or in too dangerous a region to which to return.

Marriam Teia told Nuba Reports that not only does she have no way to get to Yida, but it is a place she’s never been before–far from her home in Tess, a village recently burned by the SAF. "I don’t know where to put my heart," she said. "I’m in the middle. I want to go home."


Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. He is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide. His new book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012) is available in eBook format, at no cost.

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