Last Chance to Avoid a Humanitarian Tragedy in the Nuba Mountains

June, 2001

Prepared by the Nuba Relief Rehabilitation and Development Organization
(NRRDO) on behalf of the people of the Nuba Mountains.

Endorsed by:

Christian Aid
Dan Church Aid
Samaritan's Purse
Independent Advisors

Key points

Escalating Government of Sudan (GoS) attacks on civilian targets and drought-induced crop failures across the region have placed over 84,500 civilians in a life-threatening situation in the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) controlled areas of the Nuba Mountains. Already an unregistered number of civilians have been killed and abducted. Villages have been razed to the ground. Displaced survivors of attacks have lost everything while the host populations are themselves facing severe food shortage as a result of war and drought. The severity of the unfolding crisis has been confirmed through extensive assessments in the area by humanitarian agencies over the last 6 months. Without immediate intervention there will be wide-spread loss of life.

The Nuba administration and humanitarian partners estimate a minimum of 2,500 MT of food aid plus additional medical and non-food items - if supplied immediately - would avert tragic consequences in the short-term. This response is based on an absolute minimum ration and would still rely on the extraordinary resilience of the Nuba people to be effective. It will not however be sufficient to reverse the chronically deteriorating situation caused by the war and additional support for even the most basic livelihood recovery would be needed in 2002.

The risks involved in gaining the limited access that concerned agencies have managed over the last few years, have now become too great to allow flights into SPLA/M areas to continue. GoS has on several occasions bombed and shelled relief planes and attacked the main airstrip from the ground. Despite dialogue between the United Nations (UN) and GoS, the on-going round of discussions is making no progress to establish a negotiated access. It appears the GoS plans to delay humanitarian access to the Nuba civilians choosing to live in SPLA/M areas. This will enable them to continue their use of hunger as a weapon of war.

Failure to secure safe access will not only result in immediate loss of life but will also strengthen GoS's undeniable aim to destroy the opportunity for Nuba people to exercise their rights to attain an equitable, just and democratic peace. Considering the experience accumulated to date and the urgency of the current situation, an appeal to the GoS is no longer a realistic option. We therefore call on the international community, their governments, and the United Nations in accordance with the 1999 GoS, SPLM, and UN agreement on the rights of war-affected civilians in Sudan(*) to take immediate action to:

If the international community fails to pursue every possible option to attain these requirements, it must acknowledge its role in allowing the tragic consequences of the current crisis to unfold. On behalf of the people of the Nuba Mountains, we urge the international community to respond to this plea for urgent action and humanitarian assistance to save innocent lives.

Sources of Information

Despite the significant risks involved in reaching the Nuba Mountains and working there, a small group of international and indigenous humanitarian agencies have conducted a detailed assessment of the entire population living in SPLA/M controlled Nuba Mountains. Over six months of work are represented in this brief summary. The more detailed reports can be requested from NRRDO or other members of the Nuba Food Security Working Group.

(*) "Agreement on the Implementation of Principles Governing the Protection and Provision of Humanitarian Assistance to War Affected Civilian Population"; Geneva 15.12.1999.