OLS and the SRRA Announce New Measures
to Help Ensure Food Reaches Hungry in Southern Sudan
Nairobi, 9 September, 1998-- Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) and the Sudanese Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA) today announced they are taking new measures to help ensure relief food is reaching the neediest people in famine-stricken Bahr el Ghazal region. These measures have been introduced following indications that not all of the neediest people are receiving enough food and other relief. The measures are being implemented as a matter of urgency and are designed to correct the problems in the systems of relief distributions identified by the Task Force.
The new measures are being adopted as a result of an intensive, three-week assessment conducted by a joint Task Force comprising OLS agencies, the SRRA, and the Sudanese Peopleís Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the SPLM-controlled areas of Bahr el Ghazal. Senior managers in OLS and SRRA immediately responded to the findings, preparing a plan of action for all parties to address the problems.
OLS, the SRRA and the Sudan Peopleís Liberation Movement (SPLM) worked together to establish the Task Force after several field reports indicated some of the regionís neediest people were not receiving adequate food. The Task Force found that the humanitarian intervention is restricted and constrained by a complicated set of interrelated social/anthropological, political, economic, military and humanitarian factors.
Throughout the various phases of the current crisis, different factors have had varying degrees of impact. Initially those factors included: funding problems, the flight suspension and restrictions in February and March, lack of capacity and inadequate planning in the early phases of the crisis, including an initial underestimation of the extent of the crisis.
More recently, the Task Force concluded that previous systems of relief distribution had worked very well but that these systems were breaking down under the stress of the famine and increased levels of input. In addressing the famine, the Task Force found that chiefs were redistributing food to people within their community who they perceived to be in need. As a result, the food was not always being distributed to people with the highest immediate needs and some groups were being missed out altogether. The Task Force also found that communities were applying a modified version of the traditional practice of "tayeen" (a contribution by the community to the "authorities") to relief food, a practice which the Task Force considered "unjustifiable". In addition, difficulties with law and order have led to problems at some distribution sites.
"To continue reducing the number of hunger-related deaths, food aid must reach the mouths of those intended -- the hungriest and the poorest", Task Force members said. " It is ultimately up to the southern Sudanese to ensure that relief assistance reaches the people."
In relation to the need to improve distribution systems, Task Force members said, "With at least 12 months of this crisis still ahead, it is essential that distribution methodologies and practices are critically reviewed. If not, famine conditions in Bahr el Ghazal will persist."
The measures which the parties are taking to immediately address the problems identified by the Task Force include:
The Task Force noted the extreme difficulties of providing relief assistance in areas of high insecurity. In the long run, there are limitations on what humanitarian assistance can achieve. The Task Force emphasized that in order to address the root causes of the famine, a political solution must be found to the conflict.
For more information contact:
Gillian Wilcox/OLS Tel 622403
Brenda Barton/WFP Tel 622594
Luka Biong/SRRA Tel 440156