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IV. FAMINE AND RELIEF IN WAU AND BAHR EL GHAZAL: Operation Lifeline Sudan in Southern Sudan

Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) arose out of the failure of the international community, ten years ago, to prevent the 1988 war-related famine in Bahr El Ghazal,93 in which it was estimated that approximately 250,000 people died. What little relief was sent to Bahr El Ghazal during that famine failed to make a dent:

Relief deliveries to Bahr El Ghazal in 1987 were extremely inadequate in relation to an increasing need. With the U.N. estimating that 690,000 people were at risk of famine in Bahr El Ghazal at the end of 1986, an aid agency/U.N. team estimated that 38,250 MT [metric tons] would be required for Bahr El Ghazal to cover just the first six months of 1987. . . . This figure dwarfs the 4,000 MT of relief administered in the whole of 1987.94

Relief to Bahr El Ghazal even dropped significantly the next year: in 1988, the nadir of the famine, only 1,300 MT of food were delivered to Bahr El Ghazal.95

The OLS started up in 1989, and by the end of August 1989 delivered 17,700 MT of food to Bahr El Ghazal, two-thirds of it to government areas such as Wau and Aweil. By then the famine had subsided for other reasons.96

The OLS evolved, and its operations were divided into a northern Khartoum-based sector and a southern Nairobi-based sector. Both northern and southern sectors report to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), formerly the Department for Humanitarian Affairs (DHA) at the United Nations in New York. After seven years of OLS operations, an experienced team conducted a comprehensive review of OLS.97

OLS (Northern Sector) serves beneficiaries in government-held territories, including southern garrison towns, the transitional zones (Nuba Mountains, Darfur), and the Khartoum internally displaced camps. In Bahr El Ghazal, the garrison towns of Wau, Aweil, and Gogrial are served by the northern sector and the surrounding SPLA-held areas of Bahr El Ghazal are served by the southern sector.

OLS (Northern Sector) does not provide any assistance to SPLA-held areas in the Nuba Mountains of Southern Kordofan, which are in the center of Sudan. The government forbids any U.N. or other relief operation to serve this area. The northern sector is coordinated by the overall coordinator for all U.N. relief operations in Sudan, the U.N. Coordinator for Emergency and Relief Operations (UNCERO), based in Khartoum.

OLS (Southern Sector) serves areas of southern Sudan controlled by rebel forces. Its hub of operations is in Lokichokkio, Kenya, on the border of southern Sudan. The lead agency in the southern sector is UNICEF, which works alongside WFP and some forty international and Sudanese nongovernmental organizations. Activities carried out by OLS (Southern Sector) agencies include not only traditional relief activitiesCfood aid, health, water and sanitation, distribution of seeds and shelterCbut also primary education, teacher training, family reunification, livestock programs, training of community and animal health workers, and capacity building for local institutions.98

Southern Sudan is a huge area 640,000 kilometers square, about the size of Texas.99 The OLS (Southern Sector) comprises most of the territory impacted by the 1998 famine, with the exception of the garrison towns such as Wau and Aweil. For historical reasons the southern sector continues to serve the areas under the control of the former rebel movement, the SSIM/A, in Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Western Upper Nile, despite the fact that this movement is now aligned with and receiving arms from the government.

The OLS (Southern Sector) is characterized by 1) operations during an ongoing conflict to internally displaced and other needy people in war-affected areas; 2) approval sought from both sides for operations; 3) non-military means used for relief delivery; 4) the development of its own security apparatus to protect staff, including use of planes to evacuate staff from insecure situations on short notice; 5) use of air delivery for about 80 percent of the goods transported; and 6) an innovative program for disseminating information about human rights, the Ground Rules (a 1994 tripartite agreement among the OLS and two rebel factions) which obliged the rebel movements to adhere to a code of conduct with regard to relief operations and to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the body of international humanitarian law (the rules of war).

A 1996 review of the OLS done for the U.N. noted: