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Vast humanitarian crisis in Sudan – again

Hillary Rodham Clinton's brief visit to South Sudan provided an opportunity for the United States to show leadership in countering a vast humanitarian crisis in the border region between Sudan and South Sudan. Once again, the world is looking away.

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Aug. 3 in Juba, South Sudan. Op-ed contributor Eric Reeves writes: 'Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced from their homes' in Sudan, many of them pouring into South Sudan. The crisis 'is growing at terrifying speed [and] the international community cannot wait on the sidelines.'

Jacquelyn Martin/AP/pool

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Yet again the grim title of “world’s greatest humanitarian crisis” goes to Sudan – this time for developments in the border regions between Sudan and the newly independent country of South Sudan. The crisis is exploding as the rainy season descends fully upon this area, and humanitarian resources are overwhelmed.

Khartoum’s denial of all humanitarian access to rebel-controlled areas within its border, along with a relentless campaign of aerial bombardment, is generating a continuous flow of tens of thousands of refugees – up to 4,000 per day according to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). But even that June figure is being quickly overtaken, according to reports.

And no wonder. The regime faces no significant international condemnation or consequences for its role in creating this crisis. That must change.

At various points over the last quarter century, greater Sudan has been the site of vast humanitarian crises, notably in Darfur, in western Sudan. These were foreseeable episodes of human suffering and destruction rooted in deliberate military and political decisions by the ruling National Islamic Front/National Congress Party and Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir. If the regime’s tactics have differed, its strategic goal has not. This is “counter-insurgency on the cheap,” and it’s painfully familiar.

At present, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced from their homes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states – areas that are part of what is now (northern) Sudan, but which are substantially populated by people who sided with the South during the 1983-2005 civil war.

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