Khartoum’s Humanitarian Embargo on the Nuba Mountains: Death by Starvation

By Eric Reeves

March 2, 2016 (SSNA) — The “Special Bulletin: Food security situation in Warni and Kau-Nyaro” just released by the Food Security and Monitoring Unit (FSMU), reports levels “of food insecurity unprecedented” in their regular monitoring of the Two Areas.

[1] As many as sixty four percent (64%) of households in the area are severely food insecure; and a further thirty six percent (36%) are moderately food insecure (total 97%). This degree of food insecurity is not without its manifestations. Two hundred and forty two (242) people are reported to have died between July and December 2015, in the 8 villages assessed, 145 of which were attributed to lack of food. Almost 10 percent of those who died from lack of food were under the age of five.

The households assessed had no food available to eat for an average of 16 days (out of the last 30 days). For an average of 10 days in 30 they went a whole day and night without any food. All households reported having no remaining food stock from the current harvest and are consuming wild foods, including wild roots and green leaves, as their main food source.

High levels of insecurity around the area have prevented people from accessing land to harvest during the last agricultural season. This, along with low levels of rainfall and insufficient seeds, has contributed to the poor harvest. Insecurity has further deteriorated with the beginning of the new season of fighting. Fear of attacks by government-supported militias was assessed as the most prevalent factor preventing people from moving out of the area, and the main limiting factor when searching for wild foods. As quoted in the report, people “preferred to stay put and die, rather than undertake moving.”

Unless assistance reaches the people in need, continued hunger-related deaths are inevitable in the coming weeks and months, as high levels of food insecurity persist. The CU urges the international community to increase pressure on both sides of the conflict in order to open a humanitarian corridor to assist the 65,000 people in need in the Kau Nyaro-Warni area, who can hardly endure another lean season.

[1] FSMU Special bulletin: Food security situation in Warni and Kau-Nyaro of South Kordofan State, results of a rapid needs assessment, February 2016. Report available upon request.



International failure to respond to the ongoing humanitarian crises in South Kordofan and Blue Nile—failure to demand that Khartoum permit a humanitarian corridor be created to people such as those in Warni and Kau-Nyaro—is unforgiveable. The accommodation of Khartoum’s humanitarian embargo—in place for almost five years now—is all too evident in recent comments by Baroness Sandip Verma, representing the UK government:

HOUSE OF LORDS | February 29, 2016


Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Lab): My Lords, the noble Baroness has described the terrible situation described by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, as merely disturbing. We then listened to what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, told us about the horrific atrocities being committed, and the noble Baroness said that these matters were a setback. Surely Her Majesty’s Government can produce a more robust response to these terrible descriptions than calling them a setback or disturbing.

[For the UK government] Baroness Sandip Verma: My Lords, the noble Baroness knows that these are very difficult situations and we have to be mindful of the language used if we are to continue to have dialogue with the Government of Sudan. They are of course horrific atrocities and we as the UK Government take our role very seriously in raising those horrific atrocities. At the same time, we are working both with the Sudanese Government and others to ensure that we are able to access those who need our assistance the most. They tend to be the ones who are hardest to reach.

Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College, has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for the past seventeen years. He is author of Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012.

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