Interview with Nils Kastberg: Sudan


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Sudan continues to be a university for learning, in terms of humanitarian issues.

Humanitarian Voices interview with Nils Kastberg. Mr. Kastberg discusses the humanitarian priorities in Sudan, coordination issues, and the implications of the two states for the humanitarian community.

Mr. Kastberg is the former UNICEF Representative in Sudan (2009 to 2011).

Read interview transcript
On the humanitarian priorities in Sudan

I think that the main issue at the moment affecting Sudan is the very high level of global acute malnutrition, about 500,000 children or more are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and how to handle it is a major challenge. The conflict areas, both in Darfur, are areas the humanitarian community hasn’t had access to since January 2010. South Kordofan and Abyei, continue to be hotspots, as well as the southern Blue Nile near the Ethiopian border, and again, in those areas, humanitarian access continues to be extremely difficult. International staff has been denied access for a long time. We hope that this will be resolved in the coming weeks of February 2012. Another challenge is the situation of southerners in the north who want to move south. It’s been a very difficult and traumatic process for them, leaving their houses, waiting for transport in order to move south. There are also northerners who have been living with their cattle in the south, and who are coming back into Sudan from the south. And obviously, their settlement is also a particularly challenging situation. So generally, the area of all the 10 states along the border between the north and the south is a very difficult area. Now we have the Republic of South Sudan which has been facing increased interethnic clashes, particularly in Jonglei, in the early part of 2012, with over 100,000 people displaced. We also have approximately 20,000 or more that have moved from Nuba Mountains in Sudan into South Sudan as refugees, about 2,000 of them are unaccompanied children. The issue of registering them and trying to reconnect them with their families is part of the important protection work that needs to be undertaken. Sudan continues to be a “university for learning” in terms of humanitarian issues, South Sudan as well.

How is coordination working in Sudan?

On the issues of coordination in Sudan, I think there is a general willingness among all the agencies to coordinate. I think the biggest challenge is how to coordinate an effective advocacy approach around issues of humanitarian access and humanitarian advocacy because the consequences, whether for NGOs or UN agencies that speak out, are really, really difficult. It can mean that somebody is thrown out of the country. Very few can get away with saying something publicly about these issues, or raising these issues with the government without facing consequences. That agency is not receiving visas or being hindered in terms of movements, there are different ways in which they can suffer consequences. I do think that sometimes it’s not so much a question of willingness or a willingness to coordinate, but actually, how to steer the way around very sensitive issues such as advocacy.

What are the implications of the two states?

The whole border area between South Sudan and North Sudan cannot be seen as a division of responsibility, but actually has to be seen as a shared responsibility by the humanitarian community. I would say that the five main situations of shared responsibilities are:

  • Southerners in the north moving south, under movement, and how we can protect them throughout the movement
  • Southern Blue Nile where a lot of the population has moved southwards to the border with South Sudan or even into South Sudan, South Kordofan and particularly the people from the Nuba Mountains who have been moving South, some of them even into South Sudan.
  • Then we have also more and more students moving from Nuba Mountains in Sudan into South Sudan in order to pursue studies there so as not to lose schooling opportunities.
  • Abyei where things have to be moved from the North and the South constantly, needing a certain degree of movement.
  • And also northerners that have been living with their cattle in South Sudan and are now moving back.

I would say these are the five main shared responsibility areas that require close coordination between the two country teams.