Deep in Sudan’s troubled Nuba Mountains, Mukwar Salob, a 65-year-old farmer, has been unable to plant crops to feed himself and his family. Like many in this area bordering the newly independent South Sudan, Mr. Salob spends his days trying to evade the Sudanese army’s attacks, and his nights seeking refuge in caves. He says, “Life is awful in the caves. There are snakes, mosquitoes and it is cold at night. But it is safer than at home.”
Mr. Salob climbs over the boulders just above his cave and points to the horizon. He says: “There is the enemy, just 10 kilometres away from here. We have hardly gone a day without violence.” Fighting broke out in June between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) and government forces.
The Nuba community living in this mountain range in South Kordofan province mostly share the Islamic faith of the Sudanese government. But they say they have more in common with the mainly Christian population in South Sudan. Many in the Nuba community fought alongside the south during the two-decade civil war against the north.
Last month, SPLA-N accused the Sudanese government of using food as a weapon against the Nuba community. The government denied this, saying SPLA-N had closed roads and prevented aid from reaching people.
In late September, the United Nations received reports of continued air attacks. Humanitarian organizations were still not permitted to enter areas of conflict.
The valleys in South Kordofan are fertile. Five months of good rains normally produce a bumper harvest. But the start of this conflict coincided with the planting season. Mr. Salob says, “We fear the bombardments … we did not plant. We will go hungry soon.”
Mr. Salob and other Nubans are now eating last year’s harvest. Their next harvest will come in November, but will not be enough. Many people already eat only one meal a day.
The Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organization, or NRRDO, is a local NGO working in this region. The organization estimates that 220,000 people live in the western part of the mountains. There are some 70,000 internally displaced persons. They need shelter, medical attention and food.
Commissioner Tia Tutu is an official from Lagawa County, South Kordofan. But he can do little to help the displaced people in his area. He says, “The only thing we can offer is shelter in schools.”
The primary school in the town of Tulushi is filled with displaced women and children. Miriam Samir holds her baby in her arms. The little boy is covered in sores from a skin disease. He cries all day and refuses to eat. Mrs. Samir says, “We get one meal a day from the population here. They also have not much. But what they have, they share it with us.”
Hassan Abdallah works with NRRDO in Julud. He says the Nuba feel abandoned by the international community. “Since June, you are the first white face we have seen. It’s easier to access the eastern part [of the country] and people there get international attention. Here, we feel forgotten.”
The NRRDO gathers people together and explains what to do during an air attack. They teach people where to find wild fruit and how to prepare them. Herbalists travel by bicycle from village to village to explain the alternative medicines that people can find in the bush.
Mr. Abdallah says, “We are experienced in surviving. Most of us remember our struggle from the last war … We were forgotten for a long time until the hunger almost made us Nuba extinct.”