Alison Cozby 4492

March 8,2002




Gary Putka, "The Tragedy of Sudan's Spreading Starvation is that it is caused by Man's Errors, Not Nature's," Wall Stree Journal, January 22, 1985.


Summary:  Sudan is beginning to face a famine, threatening 4 million lives, which is made worse by slow government reaction and disorganized relief efforts, and enlarged by 200,00 Ethiopian refugees arriving as they flee from threats of starvation in their homeland.


The Sudan President Gaafar Nimeiry, after criticizing the Marxist Ethiopian regime for not being able to feed its people, has been slow in admitting that the 500,000 to one million ton food deficit in his country  had already led the displacement or death of 500,000 Sudanese.  An additional problem is local corruption and hoarding of food supplies, also the poor condition of what food is existent.  Even though the Netherlands' contributed $100,000 for grain, it came from a government agricultural bank and was sour and could not be used.  The price of grain has risen by three times, and so the Sudan government has had to impose credit restrictions to prevent speculators from profiting from the misery.


Fingers are being pointed outside the area as well, saying that help has been delayed and disorganized.  The U.N. was criticized by U.S. diplomats for not warning about a surge of Ethiopian refugees, and the U.N. Office of the high commissioner for Refugees admits that is has not been able to handle them.  An example of disorganization revolves around a measles outbreak at Wad Sherifeh, a refugee camp on the Ethiopian border.  The UNHRC ordered thousands of vaccination doses, but forgot to check with Unicef, a sister organization, who had already purchased the vaccine for the government of Sudan, and so they say in cold storage a few hours away from the 400 who died from the measles outbreak.


Apparently U.N. documents reflect that the UNHCR had been aware of a sudden Ethiopian exodus possibility for two years.  Nicholas Morris, the UNHCR representative in Khartoum said "You can't make calls to donors based on political predictions of the future", while Fred Cuny, a Dallas based relief specialist, said "The biggest problem in the international relief system is that people have to starve before anything gets done.  We need a system of advance warning and standby funds."


Although the U.S. Agency for International Development is credited with doing the most the fastest for Sudanese aid, it has been criticized as well.  It took longer than necessary while Wahington was not convinced that there was a need for the requested 82,000 tons of emergency food.  It also failed to distribute the food quickly to areas of the highest need, mainly where a high number of Ethiopians had already arrived.  Also, British charities Save the Children and Oxfam charged the U.S. of depriving those who needed the food most by selling over 40% of the first shipment.  It was said that this was done as a concession to local governments who did not want to disrupt local markets.  The Dutch government has airlifted food to the eastern areas, and 637,000 tons more has been requested of Washington.  It seems that whatever aid arrives could be too little too late.