NINE million people are threatened by starvation in Sudan where a famine is looming on the scale of the 1984/85 disaster because of poor rains and war. "All the indications point to an extremely low harvest," says CAFOD's Sudan project officer, who has just returned from a visit.
"Crops should now be approaching maturity but have dried up. The most badly hit areas are those usually relied on to produce surpluses. In the north the harvest could be as low as half an average year and people are migrating from rural areas to towns or camps. Grain prices in the market have risen as much as five times and people are selling their livestock because they need money and because there's not enough grazing for animals to survive until the next rainy season.
"Fighting between Sudanese government forces and the People's .Liberation Front further disrupts crop production.
"We must act now to get food to Sudan in time. It is no use waiting until stocks have run out," he says.
In response to the crisis, CAFOD, together with the Caritas network, is sending an emergency shipment of 300 tonnes of food. A further 1,000 tonnes of relief aid is being prepared at the request of Sudanaid, CAFOD's partner in Sudan. CAFOD is continuing its work with the Emergency Schools' Programme which provides 20,000 youngsters, from families displaced by the war, with education and one proper meal a day. For the last two years CAFOD has backed the airlift operation to Juba in the south, where overland routes to the 150,000 population have been cut off. The airlift is now threatened by high oil prices brought on by the Gulf Crisis.