by Timothy Elphick
CHILDREN in some parts of east and west Sudan are suffering from severe malnutrition and families are searching for wild plants and leaves to keep them alive, the director of the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development said this week on his return from the famine stricken African country.
Julian Filochowski, who visited the Sudan with Cardinal Roger Etchegaray as part of an eight-day fact finding mission initiated by Pope John Paul 11, said that the continuing civil war in the south and widespread crop failure in the north had already led to a "food deficit of 1.2 million tonnes which is putting at least seven million people at risk".
More than one million displaced people living in makeshift camps around the Sudanese capital Khartoum are now dependent on relief supplies, Mr Filehowski reported.
And he said that in the besieged city of Juba, the largest town in the southern Sudan, one plane brings in just 34,000 tonnes of food aid from Nairobi each day, "spiralling down like a cork-screw to keep out of the range of rebel shells". Daily food rations were limited to 150 grammes per person, he said.
"Everywhere we went we witnessed the acute suffering caused by the continuing war and impending famine," Mr Filochowski stressed. And he pointed to the town of Abie, in the El-Salarn province of south Kordofan, where the displaced population has doubled to 137,000 in the past three weeks as evidence of the rapidly worsening situation.
"There needs to be timely and co-ordinated relief operations to get food to every corner of the country," Mr Filochowski said. "We need to build a land bridge of peace to enable us to bring supplies from Kenya and Uganda".
Cardinal Etchegaray, who presented the Sudanese bishops conference with a gift of £25,000 from Pope John Paul II, had encouraged the Christian community at every stop on the delegation's tour, Mr Filochowski said. The cardinal assured the people he would do everything possible to work towards an end to the civil war between the government in Khartoum and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army.