The Nuba Mountains region of South Kordofan in Sudan, with a high proportion of Christians in the predominantly Muslim country, has a looming food crisis, according to IRIN.
A mixture of poor harvests, an extensive government campaign of bombing farmland and markets, and resultant high food prices, will mean severe hunger later this year and potential starvation next, it says.
Benjamin Kuku, Executive Director of the New Sudan Council of Churches, told IRIN: “When 242 people die in eight villages alone, it makes me worried…I don’t know where people are going to get food in the months ahead”.
The Nuba population has survived years of conflict between government and rebel forces. What has changed this year, says IRIN, is that Sudanese government forces are accused of waging a war of attrition, designed to squeeze civilians out of rebel-held areas by destroying farmland and blocking planting during the rainy season – leaving a food gap for next year.
Humanitarian aid may be the only answer, but peace talks have failed to decide on access routes – whether from within Sudan, as the government wants, or through adjacent countries. During the civil war, which ended in January 2005, humanitarian agencies jointly coordinated Operation Lifeline Sudan out of Lokichogio, in neighbouring northern Kenya.
But some will find it hard to trust the Sudanese government. Ali Abdelrahman, director of the Nuba Mountains Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organization, told IRIN: “The same person dropping bombs on you, burning down your granaries, the same person shooting you – how can he be the same person giving you food?”
A recent report by Open Doors, a charity that supports Christians under pressure for their faith, says Sudanese Christians – especially those in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states – have been facing and continue to face “ethnic cleansing” from their own government.