As If Widespread Conflict Isn’t Enough, Now Food and Price Challenges Plague South Sudan

A local farmer harvests sorghum. (Photo Courtesy Fred Noy/UN Photo)

A local farmer harvests sorghum. (Photo Courtesy Fred Noy/UN Photo)

Thousands of civilians have been displaced following ground clashes between the SPLA and the SAF and aerial bombings by Sudan. As if that wasn’t enough despair, the rising fighting has more than doubled the price of basic commodities and food for Southern Sudanese living in the areas of Unity, Upper Nile, Northern and Western Bahr al Ghazal states. For the last month, traders who usually import foodstuffs from Southern Kordofan in Sudan to South Sudan have been victims of violence en route.

“A 20 litre jerry can of cooking oil rose from 20 to 40 dollars in the last two weeks,” said Simon Kenyi, a teacher in Bentiu.

The official death toll from the conflict is not known, however, but Unity State Governor Taban Deng Guy said this week that 75 people had died in aerial bombardments in his state alone.

On top of that, Sudanese authorities have seized and impounded more than 60 vehicles carrying food across the border to South Sudan, Sudanese justice minister, Mohammed Boshara Dosa, said on Thursday while inspecting White Nile State. He warned that Khartoum intends to rigidly enforce a ban on smuggling to the southern neighbor and that the seizure is meant to signal the fact that Khartoum considers smuggling of food to South Sudan as “a crime tantamount to supplying the enemy with arms.”

To top it all off, on Thursday the UN decided to reduce the number of soldiers and police in the joint UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) by 4,000, citing improved security across parts of Darfur. However this is incredibly far from reality and I cannot believe this option was even mentioned when UNAMID confirmed bombings taking place in North Darfur at the beginning of this month. Displaced and refugee activists told Radio Dabanga ‘improved security in parts of Darfur’ is inaccurate and the daily rapes, looting, murder and displacement of civilians along with impunity for perpetrators and militants continue to terrorize them with no end in sight.

The coordinator of camps in North Darfur, Umda Ahmed Ateem described the humanitarian situation in the camps for internally displaced people at the very least as ‘disastrous’, stating that famine, the impune rule of government militia, murder, intimidation of civilians and rape as a weapon are widespread and part of everyday life. He said it is shameful that the UN security council has not implemented any of the 17 resolutions drafted on Darfur.

It’s frustrating and difficult to understand how and why there is a disconnect between what is being done and what thousands of displaced, starving, and devastated civilians need.

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