ByÂ Akshay Thakre:
The on-going conflict in Sudan has rendered thousands homeless and forced millions to evacuate their homes. This is albeit the least of the worries in Sudan currently as UN in 2010 called this the “hungriest place in the world”. This was even before the separation of South Sudan and the onset of the on-going conflict. Oxfam international in its recent reports has indicated almost 11 million people are severely affected by hunger crisis raised by the south Sudan conflict.
Before I go into more specifics of the horrifying hunger crisis let’s try to understand the nature of the Sudan conflict. Sudan is a territory rich in natural resources. Petroleum is Sudan’s major natural resource. The country also has huge deposits of Chromium ore, Copper, Iron ore, Mica, Silver, Gold, Tungsten, and Zinc. Even before the conflict broke out, Sudan earned more than 98% of its government revenue from oil fields. Sudan has witnessed decades of political instability that resulted in two civil wars; the most recent one began in 1983 and ended in 2005 with signing of the fragile Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Even after the partition of country the issue of defined borders and sharing of oil revenues remain unsolved as of today. Oil remains the largest profitable commodity to be exported from Sudan despite the trade sanctions imposed by the west.
The Sudanese economy like India’s, is largely an agrarian one. The agriculture sector employs more than 80% of the total population. Internal conflicts continuing for a long time has wreaked havoc on the economy and the food security of the nation. Region of South Sudan was the one most severely affected by the two civil wars in the twentieth century. Between 9 and 15 January 2011, a referendum was held to determine whether South Sudan should become an independent country and separate from Sudan. 98.83% of the population voted for independence. Those living in the north and expatriates living overseas also voted. South Sudan formally became independent from Sudan on 9 July,Â 2011Â although certain disputes still remained, including the division of oil revenues, as 75% of all the former Sudan’s oil reserves are in South Sudan. This has not only destabilized the economy but also added woes to the on-going conflict. Add to this the fact that this year, Sudan’s crop harvest was also low. This is not unheard of as the region suffers from water crisis regularly. The South Sudan region particularly has been the worst hit with hunger crisis. Some 7 million people face adverse food security risk and 3.7 million have been severely mauled by hunger crisis.
The UN in April appealed for 230 million USD as relief measures and gave its latest statistics of immediate death of 50,000 children. Like many African nations Sudan too has an overwhelming population under the age of 25 who are the most hit by crisis and conflict. This has aggravated the unemployment crisis and lack of government infrastructure has only made it worse. UN reports suggest at least 1.27 billion dollars are needed to combat the hunger crisis. Only 36% of the projected funds have been raised so far. The US, EU and UN rushed to sign a call to action for the country in Washington over the weekend. Representatives from the three groups gathered to pledge $80 million for South Sudan. That is in addition to the $100 million that was pledged in the prior week. The money will be used to reach nearly 5 million people who need assistance because of the on-going crisis in South Sudan.
Humanitarians worldwide have appealed to all the major economies of the world to contribute to the relief fund for Sudan. Sadly, major economies like India, China, and Russia haven’t contributed yet while America funnelled nearly 411 million for the same. India should take a stand and funnel some relief fund to Sudan now that there’s stable governance at the centre. India joined the Africa race for resources very late after China and hence has a lot to make up. South Sudan with its rich oil and mineral resources can be a boon for the nation which faces an energy crisis in the near future. The relief fund shall also help diplomatic relations of India with other African nations and such a benevolent act will not go unnoticed. While we have our immediate problems in our nation to deal with, believe me, such acts will help boost India’s image abroad and help foster stronger relations with other countries.