HEAVY rains are unlikely to lessen the plight of millions of starving people in the famine-hit southern Sudan, the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD) warned this week.
Rob Rees, the agency's Africa projects officer recently returned from Sudan, said that despite the rain this season people were unable to return their fields on account of heavy fighting between the Khartoum government and rebel Sudanese Liberation People's Army forces.
Mr Rees flew into the besieged town of Juba with a UN relief plane carrying 85 tonnes of emergency provisions.
"Every available inch of the area in and immediately around the government-held town isbeing cultivated and there will be a good harvest in that limited area," he said.
But the continuing civil war in Sudan has prevented displaced families in Juba and across the south of the country from going back to their homes, said Mr Rees.
Food aid reaching the country has fallen far short of the minimum requirements estimated by the UN. Of the 1.2 million tonnes needed for 1991 only a quarter has so far been sent by the international community.
Mr Rees said problems in the implementation of new supply lines through the battle zones of the south were still preventing lorries carrying supplies into the country from neighbouring Kenya, which has itself suffered from poor harvests in the last few months.
And food from the northern route, entering the country at Port Sudan, had to travel distances of up to 1,500 kilometres to reach badly affected areas such as Darfur and Kordofan.
Peace talks being held in Nigeria between the government and the SPLA could easethe political situation, but until an accord was signed and delivered the desperate situation of millions of the country's people would not improve, Mr Rees said.
The lives of as many as nine million Sudanese are currently believed to be at risk from starvation and disease. The figure for Africa is 30 million.