Sudan faces potential famine, U.S. envoy warns

Half a million people may face famine by March if organizations are not allowed into areas of Sudan that are mired in conflict.

Story highlights

  • Aid organizations must be allowed into conflict-ridden areas, a U.S. envoy warns
  • The Sudanese government says it's too dangerous for NGOs in those regions
  • Africa must show leadership on the issue, Princeton Lyman says
  • There is violence in oil-rich border regions, plus conflict between north and south

Half a million people will face an emergency bordering on famine by March if international humanitarian organizations are not allowed into areas of Sudan that are mired in conflict, United States envoy to Sudan Princeton Lyman warned Wednesday.

"There is a looming humanitarian disaster in Sudan," Lyman warned in the South African capital Pretoria as part of his effort to rally support for African intervention in Sudan.

Groups like the World Food Programme and UNICEF must be able to work in the border areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, he said.

The government in Khartoum argues that these areas are too dangerous for NGOs to operate in.

Lyman urged South Africa to show leadership on the issue.

Darfur refugees in crisis
Darfur refugees in crisis

    JUST WATCHED

    Darfur refugees in crisis

MUST WATCH

Darfur refugees in crisis 03:17
UN: Political solution needed in Sudan
UN: Political solution needed in Sudan

    JUST WATCHED

    UN: Political solution needed in Sudan

MUST WATCH

UN: Political solution needed in Sudan 02:48
Could lives have been saved in Africa?
Could lives have been saved in Africa?

    JUST WATCHED

    Could lives have been saved in Africa?

MUST WATCH

Could lives have been saved in Africa? 02:28

"As chair of the United Nations Security Council this month, South Africa can play a role in preventing a colossal disaster," Lyman said.

The American envoy said a lack of leadership, a history of vicious ethnic violence and the indictment of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court are all factors that have complicated the crisis in that country.

"It falls to national leaders to make peace and to make decisions that could lead to peace," Lyman said.

He lamented the lack of a mechanism for Sudan and newly independent South Sudan to resolve conflicts, "despite the two sides having been in a unity government for five years and having participated in years of peace talks."

Since South Sudan gained independence from the north in July 2011, fighting has continued in the oil-rich border regions of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Unity State and Upper Nile.

Countless lives have been lost and hundreds of thousands have been displaced, exacerbating an already desperate humanitarian crisis, according to rescue officials.

The two sides continue to bicker over oil revenue, and the South has also been plagued by deadly tribal wars.

"Africa needs to speak with one voice," Lyman said. "Africa needs to say, 'We cannot allow this to happen.'"

The Sudanese ambassador to South Africa, Ali Yusuf Alsharif, warned that the situation in his country could become worse than Somalia -- but he said that outside pressure will further complicate the situation.

"The world has looked at Somalia, not knowing what to do," he said at the conference. "But if you push everyone (in Sudan), you could have a situation worse than Somalia."

      CNN recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.