South Sudan and Sudan: A looming humanitarian catastrophe?

The EU boosts humanitarian aid for needs in Sudan and South Sudan by €40 million.


1. How necessary is the EU humanitarian aid from your point of view?

2. The organization United to End Genocide recently said that a man-made humanitarian catastrophe is taking place in Sudan and addressing it requires consequences for the party with primary responsibility for the suffering taking place, the Sudanese regime of Omar al-Bashir. Would you agree with this assessment?


Zachariah Mampilly, Assistant Professor, Departments of Political Science,International Studies & Africana Studies, Vassar College

1. Desperately necessary. The budget situation in both countries is dire. With the bulk of oil revenues still suspended while negotiations continue in Addis Ababa, both countries are facing severe budgetary crises. The key will be to ensure that the money goes to programs that provide basic services to the populations as the governments of both keep pouring money into their militaries while cutting services.

2. The Bashir regime does not represent the Sudanese public but rather a narrow clique of military and business elites in Khartoum. As a result, the regime has never emphasized good governance. So it is not surprising that when faced with a fiscal crisis it is the average person who suffers. That being said, Khartoum is not solely responsible for the current crisis in both countries. The peace process never settled many of the key issues between the two countries and the current crisis is a natural outcome of that failure. Until a truly comprehensive peace agreement resolving all outstanding issues is achieved between the two, both governments will continue to emphasize military over civilian concerns with dramatically negative effects for the long suffering populations of both.

 Jonathan Temin, Director, Sudan Program, United States Institute of Peace

1. The humanitarian situation in both countries is dire, so the assistance is much needed. This is particularly true in large swaths of South Sudan and in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan. The complication in those two states in Sudan is that the Sudanese government has yet to allow unhindered humanitarian access to people most in need, as there is an ongoing insurgency in those states led by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). So even if international funding is available, critical access issues remain unresolved.

2. It is clear that the humanitarian needs of many people in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states are not being met in large part because of lack of access. For some time now there has been a proposal on the table, developed jointly by the African Union, United Nations, and Arab League, to facilitate humanitarian access to those states. The SPLM-N say they accept the proposal; the Sudanese government seems to have tentatively accepted it, but with caveats that raise important questions. Those parties have been negotiating these humanitarian access issues this week in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), but with seemingly little success so far.

David ShinnAdjunct Professor of International Affairs, The George Washington University, Former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia and to Burkina Faso

1. This EU assistance is part of a long-standing humanitarian aid program for Sudan (and now South Sudan) that began in the mid-1990s. The greatest need is in South Sudan where there are growing numbers of refugees fleeing problems in Blue Nile, Abyei and Southern Kordofan regions in the North. In Sudan, Darfur continues to require emergency assistance. South Sudan stopped producing oil, which accounts for 98 percent of its income, early this year over a dispute with Khartoum on the amount it should pay to use northern pipelines to export the oil. This has severely hurt the economy. Khartoum lost about 75 percent of its oil production to South Sudan when it became independent and is now earning nothing for the use of its pipelines because South Sudan has terminated oil production. As a result, both states face major financial problems and do not have the reserves to deal with humanitarian needs.

2. Much of the reason for the looming humanitarian catastrophe in South Sudan and, to a lesser extent, in Sudan is due to decisions being made in both Khartoum and Juba. While Khartoum may bear a larger share of the blame, it is a mistake to absolve Juba. Both countries are contributing to the humanitarian problems.

Eric ReevesProfessor of English Language and Literature, Sudan researcher and analyst, Smith College

1. This aid is critical but the question is whether it will get to those who need it most: Khartoum continues to deny all access to rebel-held territories in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation. People in eastern Sudan are very little heard of but they too are suffering badly, and Khartoum’s most recent response has been to expel humanitarian organizations. And in Darfur the NCP regime continues to harass and obstruct humanitarian workers and operations. All of this takes a tremendous and gratuitous toll on humanitarian capacity.

2. I would strongly agree with this statement, but point out that the regime of President al-Bashir is responsible for genocide in Darfur (beginning in 2003), an extermination campaign against the Nuba people in the 1990s, and scorched-earth warfare in the oil regions of South Sudan and the border regions (1998-2002), killing or displacing many hundreds of thousands of people. So the extreme humanitarian crisis in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile must be seen as an extension of a military strategy that has been in use for almost two decades. The refugee crises in South Sudan (Unity and Upper Nile) are of course a direct result of people fleeing starvation and aerial bombardment in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile.

Alex ThurstonPh.D. Candidate in the Religion Department, Northwestern University

1. I believe both Sudan and South Sudan are facing economic and humanitarian crisis, and that the aid is much needed.

2. I believe that the first step toward resolving Sudan’s crises is a sustainable agreement between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan.

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