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Sudan Food Shortage Worsens

April 28, 1998

THIEKTHOU, Sudan (AP) _ An 8-year girl stumbled to the end of a line of 300 Sudanese waiting passively in the heat and dust for handouts of food, then collapsed into a heap.

She is among 350,000 southern Sudanese who have been pushed from their homes by years of fighting, some of whom are now at the brink of starvation, aid workers said Sunday.

To help save the little girl and others, the relief workers have set up a feeding center in Thiekthou, a town in Bahr el-Ghazal, the worst hit of Sudan’s southern provinces.

Fighting between government troops and rebels _ and within rebel groups _ not only has disrupted normal planting and harvesting but has hampered relief efforts.

``Between 10,000 and 50,000 people are in immediate danger of dying from starvation if the aid program is not increased,″ said Els Matthieu of Doctors Without Borders, an international medical aid group.

On Sunday, Matthieu helped distribute protein biscuits and baby food to the hungry of Thiekthou, many of whom walked up to 150 miles in blazing heat that reached 120 degrees.

Mijen, 15, said rival rebels had looted his family’s crops and burned his house, leaving with him with no choice but to line up at the feeding center.

Most rivers have dried up, so people cannot fish. Grazing lands for their cattle are parched, so milk and meat supplies are down. Aid workers said desperate Sudanese have resorted to raiding ant hills for grain and to the large-scale slaughter of their livestock.

In order to avert famine, seeds must be planted by the end of May for a September harvest, said Save the Children, a British charity. But many people who fled their homes have no tools to prepare the ground for planting seeds, and no seeds to plant.

The tens of thousands of hungry Sudanese have been converging on towns where aid agencies have set up feeding centers and have flown in supplies.

Last week, the Sudanese government appealed for international help in Bahr el-Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile provinces, only days after the United Nations accused it of interfering with food delivery by restricting U.N. flights to southern Sudan.

The government, apparently concerned that such supplies may be falling into the hands of southern insurgents, had allowed only one C-130 Hercules transport plane to carry food into the country.

On Saturday, it approved flights by a second aircraft, the U.N. World Food Program said. Even with the second plane, aid agencies said they are able to deliver only a quarter of the food needed.

Rebels have fought since 1983 for greater autonomy from the Islamic-dominated government for southerners, mainly Christians and animists. More than 1.5 million Sudanese have died in the fighting and consequent famines.

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