From 1983 to 2005, the people of Sudan endured the Second Sudanese Civil War. Conflict between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) resulted in the deaths of two million people and the displacement of four million more. In 2005, the Sudanese government and SPLM signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which eventually led to the establishment of an independent state of South Sudan.
Despite the Peace Agreement and separation of South Sudan, many members of the SPLM and other revolutionary groups—collectively known as the Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF) – remained in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. Since 2011, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have engaged in a comprehensive campaign to repress and eliminate these revolutionary forces in the country’s southern states.
To achieve this objective, the SAF has initiated indiscriminate aerial bombings and ground assaults in territories held by the SRF. Eyewitness accounts describe government soldiers forcing civilians from their homes and destroying entire villages. The attacks have exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in a region that is already afflicted by severe food and water shortages. Many civilians have had no choice but to flee the territory.
The United Nations estimates that more than 200,000 Sudanese have fled to already-overcrowded refugee camps in Ethiopia and South Sudan. These refugees face a long and daunting journey by foot through the Nuba Mountains. Those that arrive at a camps are often afflicted with a range of health problems including malnutrition, water born illnesses, skin diseases, respiratory infections and potentially fatal diseases such as Hepatitis E.
Compounding the situation is the fact that many camps are hindered in their ability to care for refugees by a lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. In the rainy season, roads are impassable and all food and medical supplies must be flown into the camps. Ewan Watson, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, says that many refugees “found shelter in camps whose stretched resources were insufficient to cover peoples’ basic needs.”
While many civilians have fled, those that remain in the region are unable to farm or harvest because of the aerial and ground attacks. This has intensified food shortages, malnutrition, and disease. The Sudanese government has also cut off all foreign aid to people living in territories controlled by the Revolutionary Forces. The Enough Project—an advocacy group focused on genocide and crimes against humanity—reports that more than 80% of households in the state are surviving on one meal a day.
Despite growing international pressure, there are no signs that the SAF will abate their assault on the southern states. As food, shelter and land become more scarce, the number of refugees fleeing Sudan will increase. In a region that has known little peace, the humanitarian crisis in Sudan appears to shift continuously from bad to worse.
– Daniel Bonasso