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Only Lasting Relief for Sudan Famine Is Peace

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Lual Agok is a toddler who has the face of an old man. He lies wrapped in sacking, wizened by hunger.

Guer Angok is in his sunset years. Chevrons on his forehead mark the rite of passage through Dinka life. In normal times he would be instructing warrior youths. But he sits naked like a helpless toddler on waterproof sheeting in a feeding center waiting for a cup of porridge.

This is the face of famine in southern Sudan where nothing is as it should be: children are denied a future, adults deprived of their livelihood, the old robbed of their past. These are not a helpless or hopeless people. Yet it has taken 1.2 million people facing starvation to focus the spotlight on this forgotten crisis.

Ironically, they face starvation not because they're poor, but because they're rich in resources like oil. The Dinka are no strangers to hunger. In normal times they're pastoralists who herd cattle and plant subsistence crops. They've learned to cope with drought and the 15-year civil war. Tall, elegant figures who move fluidly over the arid, featureless plains in oppressive heat, they signal hardiness and resilience. But this year they were pushed over the edge.

Simply put, the Islamic fundamentalist government in the north turned up the heat in its fight against and Christian south. Stalemated on the battlefield with the rebel southern Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the government of Sudan is waging war on the civilian population in the south.

Some, like Dan Eiffe of Norwegian People's Aid - who's worked in southern Sudan for 20 years - call the government's tactics nothing less than genocide and ethnic cleansing.


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