War in Sudan Has Reached "Unimaginable and Extraordinary Levels" Say NGOs in Joint-Testimony to UN Security Council

CARE, MSF, OXFAM and SCF Call for Political Action to End Suffering

Brussels/New York, October 26, 1998 — CARE International, Oxfam/Great Britain, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and Save the Children Fund (SCF) today urged the UN Member States of the Security Council to take an active role in ending more than 30 years of fighting in Sudan. At an informal meeting today in New York at 3pm EST, four of the largest international humanitarian organizations working in Sudan stressed in a joint statement that the ongoing war and resulting humanitarian crisis "have now reached an unimaginable and extraordinary level of tragedy...Peace is the only hope for progress and to prevent further humanitarian catastrophe."

From 1983 to 1993, an estimated 1.5 million people died as a direct result of the war and its consequences. This is a conservative estimate, say the agencies, which excludes the death toll in the last five years. Currently an estimated 4 million Sudanese are displaced internally or as refugees, having fled their homes due to conflict.

"The human suffering in Sudan is appalling and must stop," says Guy Tousignant, Secretary General of CARE International. "Humanitarian assistance alone, in a political vacuum, will not solve Sudan's problems nor stop the next famine. What we need is political will to end the war."

The joint-agency committee testified that the most recent installment of Sudan's near half-century of war has caused millions of civilian deaths, massive displacement, the de-population of the southern parts of the country, the collapse of the rural economy, the collapse of local governance and increasing instability and ethnic hostility.

"After years of conflict, less than half the population of southern Sudan remains in their place of origin," says Dr. David Bryer, Director of Oxfam/GB. "It is estimated that 2.6 million people are at risk of starvation in Sudan. Sudanese society is now so weakened that if the conflict continues, further humanitarian disasters are inevitable."

The four agencies called upon the United Nations to recognize their responsibilities for the support of the development of peace in Sudan. Specifically, the agencies noted that a military solution seems unreachable, and called upon the United Nations to collaborate to "generate a forceful and positive lobby for peace." The agencies stressed the most immediate and urgent need was an expansion of the current cease-fire in Sudan beyond Bahr El Ghazal and an extension of the cease-fire through November 1999.

"Without greater international will there is no chance of finding the way towards peace," says Mark Bowden, East and Central Africa Regional Director for Save the Children/UK. "We need an effective peace process to de-escalate the situation at every level and across the region."

The four agencies called upon the United Nations to improve the ability of the humanitarian community to respond to famine, including guarantees of unrestricted access to all populations in need, increased commitment of resources, increased respect for humanitarian principles and increased accountability for the flow of aid.

"The famine and conflict are probably claiming innocent lives in places that humanitarian organizations can't reach due to insecurity and restricted access," says Jean-Marie Kindermans, Secretary General of MSF International. "We need unimpeded access to all locations in Sudan or many more lives will be lost."