First in Line
Photograph by Meredith Davenport
Women desperate for food shield their eyes from the dust as a plane delivering humanitarian aid takes off from the airstrip at Kauda. For more than a decade, until a shaky 2002 cease-fire, the government ban on relief flights meant that people in the rebel-occupied Nuba Mountains received little outside help. Operation Lifeline Sudan, the United Nations' humanitarian effort in the country, did not reach the Nuba Mountains. In 1995 an offshoot of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) called the Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation, and Development Organization defied the government's ban and began flying in some food and medical assistance from Kenya. But it was not enough. "Hunger is the most dangerous enemy," said Yousif Kuwa Mekki, a Nuba who commanded the SPLA in the Nuba Mountains until his death from cancer in 2001. "We can fight with our enemies, against tanks . . . but we cannot fight hunger."