Sudan: hunger remains, relief groups asked to go

Sixteen relief agencies were told Wednesday that they must leave Sudan, where hunger is a major enemy facing both civilians, troops, and rebels in the south. The relief agencies have been asked to leave within two weeks for cooperating with the rebel Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA), according to a government spokesman.

Fighting has kept most relief supplies from reaching the south. There are continuing accusations that the Sudanese Army is using relief food destined for civilians. And the SPLA is charged with blocking relief supplies to towns to keep them from falling into Army's hands.

Both sides of the conflict had some time ago told international relief agencies not to send workers to the south without their permission. And relief agencies here seem to be very unsure of the exact status of a number of supply convoys headed for the region.

There are reports that people are dying daily in some of the smaller towns. Even in Juba, the largest southern city, food supplies are inadequate. Many Sudanese have fled the countryside to cities such as Juba, seeking food and shelter. But the cities are already overrun with homeless, hungry peasants.

Places like Gogrial, Tonj, and Rumbek ``continue to be slowly ravaged by hunger,'' says Willam Deng, who was until recently governor of a large southern region.

Several southern church leaders told the Monitor that some members of the Sudanese Army have become traders,'' obtaining food supplies which they are able to sell at much higher prices because of the shortages.

Sudan's Prime Minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi, has denied charges that he is using food as a tactic of war, explaining that last year some relief flights had to be canceled because of lack of security.

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