X. POLITICAL COMPLICATIONS BODING ILL FOR FUTURE RELIEF: The 1998 Famine in Bahr El Ghazal is Brought Under Control
By the end of 1998, it appeared that the famine in Bahr El Ghazal had been brought under control. There were many reasons for this, most of a temporary nature. The 1998 harvest was, in some places, better than expected.3 The OLS, for once adequately funded, geared up and delivered massive amounts of aid, flooding the famine region with food. A UNDP representative said, AThe Bahr El Ghazal region required 15,000 metric tonnes [of food aid] every month, which was also delivered. . . . The area is out of the intensive care unit but it is still in a hospital ward.@4 The cease-fire had brought an end to most raiding and displacement.5 Therapeutic feeding programs were phased out in many locations in southern Sudan, indicating that nutritional conditions were improving in many areas during the harvest period.6
Delivery by barge was proceeding. A convoy of seven barges chartered by WFP left the northern river port of Kosti on November 30 with 2,500 MT of food and was expected to arrive in Juba in early January 1999, dropping off 1,500 MT of relief food to thirty-three locations along the way (392,000 people), divided almost evenly between rebel and government areas. This barge convoy is the third to Juba since May 1998.7 So far it was not plagued by ambushes and hostage-takings by various armed groups.
The U.N., the Sudanese government, and the SPLA, meeting under the chairmanship of the recently-appointed secretary-general=s special envoy for humanitarian affairs for the Sudan, Ambassador Tom Eric Vraalsen, reached agreement in Rome in mid-November to facilitate delivery of relief food by train under military escort to Wau, and to permit agencies to deliver food by road across the lines that separate the two main warring parties.8 They also agreed to provisions to improve the security of aid workers, according to Russel Ulrey, regional aid coordinator for the WFP. The two sides agreed not to lay land mines in agreed humanitarian access corridors, to press for the release of any aid workers taken hostage, and to make sure aid workers received information about impending military actions.9
The use of the railroad and roads was said to cost between 50 and 80 percent less than air delivery, which prompted the WFP to hold back on its plans to appeal for a $100 million increase in the $154 million food relief program for 1998-99.10
3 FAO, Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Southern Sudan, November 18. 1998. In southern Sudan, the rains stabilized from mid-July and Aresulting yields are far better than last year.@
4 "Relief Beats Famine in South Sudan,@ Reuters, Khartoum, December 3, 1998.
5 See U.S. Committee for Refugees, ASudan in Late >98: Updated Findings and Recommendations Based on Completed USCR Site Visits,@ Washington, DC, December 1998.
6 WFP, Sudan Bulletin No. 65, December 6-13, 1998, dated December 18, 1998.
7 "Relief Beats Famine in South Sudan,@ Reuters, Khartoum, December 3, 1998. Some 1,000 MT are earmarked for Juba, to last more than two months. Prior convoys sent in May and August 1998 delivered more than 4,000 MT of food along the Nile. Ibid.
8 Mike Crawley, ABreakthrough in Sudan talks helps food delivery,@ Dawn/LAT-WP News Service, London, November 23, 1998.
9 David Ljunggren, ASudan, rebels agree to boost aid workers= safety,@ Reuters, London, November 19, 1998.
10 Crawley, ABreakthrough in Sudan food talks helps food delivery.@