The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Caroline Gluck, Oxfam Humanitarian Press Officer: +880 2 88136079, + 880 171 343 8881.

World Needs to Act Now to Prevent New Sudan War, Ten Aid Agencies Warn

The rest of the world has largely overlooked this suffering


Major conflict could
return to southern Sudan unless there is urgent international action to
save the peace agreement that ended one of Africa's longest and
deadliest wars, ten aid agencies warned today.

In a new report "Rescuing the Peace in Southern Sudan"
- released ahead of the fifth anniversary of the signing of the peace
agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's
Liberation Movement - the agencies said a lethal cocktail of rising
violence, chronic poverty and political tensions has left the peace
deal on the brink of collapse.

"It is not yet too late to avert disaster, but the next 12 months
are a crossroads for Africa's largest country. Last year saw a surge in
violence in southern Sudan. This could escalate even further and become
one of the biggest emergencies in Africa in 2010," said co-author of
the report Maya Mailer, Policy Advisor for Oxfam.

In 2009 some 2,500 people were killed and 350,000 fled their homes,
a human toll greater than occurred last year in Darfur. The rest of the
world has largely overlooked this suffering according to the agencies.
Communities say that women and children have increasingly been targeted
in attacks on villages and the Government of Southern Sudan and
international peacekeepers have not been able to protect them.

The report says the next 12 months will see a number of potential
flashpoints that could inflame violence if not properly prepared for.
These include Sudan's first multi-party elections in 24 years and a
referendum in which southerners will vote on whether to remain united
with the north or to secede and become independent.

To safeguard civilians at this fragile juncture, the agencies urged
the UN Security Council to ensure that protecting civilians becomes a
core priority for the UN peacekeeping force, UNMIS. The agencies also
called on the international community to help mediate between the
northern and southern parties before the elections and referendum, to
reduce the likelihood of conflict, and to support the government in the
south to provide security.

The agencies also warned that growing frustration over the lack of
development in southern Sudan is harming the chances of peace. Less than half the population has access to clean water and maternal mortality rates are among the worst in the world.
There are fewer than 50 kilometers of tarmac road in the entire region,
an area the size of France, and during heavy rains many areas are cut
off for months at a time, making the delivery of humanitarian aid
almost impossible. Some 80 percent of adults cannot read or write and
one in seven children die before their fifth birthday.

"After five years of peace, southern Sudan remains one of the
poorest regions on earth. People hoped the peace would bring economic
benefits and development, but this has happened far too slowly and in
some areas not at all. We are very worried about children who seem to
be increasingly targeted in attacks on villages. International donors
and the government must urgently improve aid to these areas," said
Francisco Roque, Country Director of Save the Children in South Sudan.

A return to conflict would have devastating consequences that extend
far beyond southern Sudan, the agencies said. The civil war was
responsible for the deaths of 2 million people and forced around 4
million people to flee their homes, many into neighboring countries.
The war destabilized the entire region, fuelling conflicts and
suffering across central and eastern Africa.

The crisis in southern Sudan is escalating at a time when the
situation in Darfur, in western Sudan, remains one of the world's
biggest humanitarian emergencies. The agencies warned that there can
not be sustainable peace in Darfur if the peace between north and south
is allowed to fail.

"Sustained diplomatic engagement from the international community,
including Sudan's neighbors, is what is needed. This helped achieve
what many thought was impossible and secure the peace agreement in the
first place. Now engagement is needed again to ensure all that effort
does not go to waste. A return to war is by no means inevitable, but it
depends whether the world heeds the warning signs of the past year and
has the political will to save the peace," said Paul Valentin,
International Director of Christian Aid.

Notes to editors

2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed on 9 January 2005. It
ended a war between northern and southern Sudan that cost two million

The ten agencies backing the report are: Christian Aid, Cordaid, Handicap International, ICCO, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam International, Save the Children Sudan, Caritas France/ Secours Catholique, TearFund and World Vision.

Oxfam International is a global movement of people who are fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. We are working across regions in about 70 countries, with thousands of partners, and allies, supporting communities to build better lives for themselves, grow resilience and protect lives and livelihoods also in times of crisis.