The Sudanese Famine Essay

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The Sudanese Famine

The Sudanese famine of 1998 erupted amidst a 15 year civil war between the Sudanese People’s Libertarian Army/Movement (SPLA) and the official Sudanese Government.  This catastrophe’s two year stint took the lives of thousands of people and left many misplaced.  The initial cause of this humanitarian disaster was environmental; however social and political factors prolonged the Sudanese suffering as well as contributed to the extreme outcome.  The Human Rights Watch described the Sudanese famine as “a product of human action.”  (Deng, 2007)

     In 1996 the politically unstable country of Sudan was over come by “strange global weather conditions” that were a direct result of the “El Nino phenomenon” and the final result led to a two year drought.  (Deng, 2007)  This drought badly injured Sudan’s agricultural trade; therefore, inflicting damage on the nation’s food supply.  The current political conditions were less than stable and this natural devastation only complicated its current state of confusion.   (Deng, 2007)

     At the onset of the drought, the civil dispute had been in full force for 15 years; however its beginnings were considered “old and complex.”  (Holcomb, 2006)    Much of the battle erupted due to a “conflict between northern Islam and Southern Tribal religions, Animism, and Christianity.”  (Holcomb, 2006)

The Islamist Sudan government waged an intense battle against the “southern and Nuba Mountains-based Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A)” to ensure that their Islamic theocracy prevailed.  (Human Rights Watch, 1999)   New challenges surfaced as more organized armed coalitions joined what had been defined as a “war between the Muslim north and the non-Muslim south” into a complex battle where rebels of various religions “fought on both sides in a new conflict.”  (Human Rights Watch, 1999)

     The people of Sudan were desecrated and left helpless in a time of desperate need.  The Sudan government and its opposing forces violated the laws of war “through attacks on civilians, summary executions, arbitrary and often unacknowledged detentions and the looting and destruction of civilian property.”  (Human Rights Watch, 1999)

  The famine intensified by social and political conditions was most apparent in Bahr El Ghazal in the southwestern part of Sudan, near the Nuba Mountains.  In the absence of the rebel forces government militias had taken advantage of the situation and waged an ongoing war to gain control over the area.  As a result the residents experienced horrible abuse as these forces raided their cattle, seized their food supplies as well as abducted women and children for slave labor.  (Human Rights Watch, 1999)

     Operation Lifeline Sudan, having come into being in 1989 through the association of two United Nations agencies, UNICEF and the World Food Program as well as 35 non-governmental agencies, continued to attempt to deliver “humanitarian assistance to all civilians in need, regardless of their location.”  (Holcomb, 2006)   These organizations were forced to drop their relief packages from the air and then battle the rugged terrain of the devastated countryside to complete the delivery. (Deng, 2007)

The Sudanese government went on record in 1998 to agree to over 180 food delivery sites in the Southern area of Sudan during the height of the famine.  (Holcomb, 2006)   Though these efforts were successful in their efforts to deliver food and supplies within the borders of Sudan, political corruption and thievery consumed the majority of these supplies; therefore, many people remained in need of food and medical attention.  (Deng, 2007)

     The Human Rights Watch estimates that during the height of the Sudanese famine in 1998 that more than 100,000 people perished and an equal number of individuals were displaced.  (Human Rights Watch, 1999)  This famine having begun as an environmental reaction to extreme global weather conditions was prolonged by political and social factors imposed on a civilization that has a history of vulnerability.

  Prolonged conflict waged out of religious and political context took the lives of thousands of innocent people and lead to the suffering and extreme abuse of others.  International efforts to provide relief though noble were not successful because the ground forces, including the Sudanese government, were corrupt and held no value for human life.  This famine was the product of faulty human judgment and the extent of its cruelty was preventable.

References

Deng, S. A. (2007, January 27). Sudan Tribune: Is another famine of 1998 being allow again? Retrieved March 6, 2007, from http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article19985

Holcomb, J. (2006). Southern Sudanese Chaplains: Human Rights and The Embodiment of Peace. Retrieved from http://www.theotherjournal.com/article.php?id=107

Human Rights Watch. (1999). Human Rights Watch:  Sudan. Retrieved March 6, 2007, from http://www.hrw.org/worldreport99/africa/sudan.html

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