In Sudan, A Struggle To Survive

For many residents of southern Sudan, a bowl of food is considered a large meal, reports CBS News Correspondent Sarah Carter. When the food runs out, they will make soup using bugs and grass seeds.

More than a million Sudanese have died in what is now Africa's longest war. Southern black Christians are fighting for autonomy from the Islamist Arab government in Khartoum. The Southerners claim the government is trying to monopolize Sudan's wealth and impose Islam on the Christians.

With government forces regularly destroying crops, most people in the small villages that dot Sudan's southern countryside are continually on the verge of famine. Now their only source of food is what they get from international aid agencies.

Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), which is sponsored by the United Nations, is the largest humanitarian air drop in the organization's history. OLS believes it will have to distribute more than 100,000 tons of food to 80 villages in Southern Sudan to keep the death toll from rising yet again.

But the brutal civil war makes that nearly impossible, since both the government forces and their opponents in the rebel army could block the food supply at any time.

Experts say this would cause an immediate famine.

"The reality is that people are pretty much teetering on the edge," says Michele Quintaglie, who works for the United Nations World Food Program. "It won't take much to put them in a tragic situation of hunger and famine. And that's what we are trying to avoid."

And while food is in short supply, medicine and proper treatment facilities are virtually non-existent. Some medical workers are hungry themselves, and work every day of the week for no pay.

"Most people in here with malaria, malnutrition and TB [in their] lungs," says Dr. William Aken Dut.

Dr. Aken Dut's clinic has basic medicine to last just two months. But it has nothing to treat children sick with malnutrition, and only a few painkillers to ease the suffering of those dying of tuberculosis.

Pointing to a woman who has come to him for help, Dr. Aken Dut tells a visitor that she won't last through the week. She will become yet another statistic in a country where the fight for life remains a daily struggle.

Reported by Sarah Carter
©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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