| Measuring drought and drought impacts in Red Sea Province |
|4. Drought, the market, and the impact of food aid in Red Sea Province, 1980 to 1989. Roy Cole|
Are there any arguments for the continued distribution of free food aid in Red Sea Province? The answer is yes and no. Yes to a social security type assistance and no to a general free food distribution. The majority of people in Red Sea Province do not need food aid. Those who do need continued assistance are refugees and divorced women and widows with dependent children (see Cole and Cole, Nutritional status of children in Red Sea Province, November 1985 to November 1987, below). The refugees are principally Beni 'Amer, or Habaab who transhume from the coastal areas of South Tokar and the Tokar Delta to the Eritrean highlands. Those who are not Beni 'Amer are found generally in the camps near Garora. The Beni 'Amer, because their population is split between the Sudan and Eritrea, have been able to reside in the Sudan as Sudanese. The closure of the Sudanese-Eritrean border and the mining of the area behind the border in the early 1980s had much to do with their present position. They were trapped in the Sudan for several dry seasons. Their animals were sold or died. When the EPLF took control of the border areas these people were assetless. Most of them remain in the Sudan today. Those in the camps are the "real" refugees supported by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The hidden refugees are the Beni 'Amer and the Habaab.
Knowing as we do that most people have more than one occupation as a risk minimising strategy recovery from drought assumes a different perspective than that it possessed several years ago when NGOs believed that the only significant occupation of rural people in Red Sea Province was herding livestock and that income from the towns did not return to the rural areas5. However, those people who possessed livestock after the drought of 1983-84 have had several good years in which to recover their assets through employment in the urban or rural areas and through the natural reproduction of their animals. The best years have been the last two. The terms of trade of cereals to small stock have been extremely favourable to the animal owner as well. Most of those people who were unfortunate enough to have some of their livestock due to drought in 1983 and 1984 have gone to the towns and/or have taken up other occupations. According to a report by the Environmental Research Group Oxford (ERGO), currently doing an aerial survey of livestock and human population in and around Red Sea Province, there is already a drift from the town to the country. This same group of researchers also maintain that the majority of people in Red Sea Province live in towns and not the countryside. The implication of their finding is that people are accumulating assets in the urban areas, investing in livestock, and then seasonally returning to the country. It is likely that these people have strong linkages both the urban and rural areas and if they did not have a foot in both the urban and rural areas before the drought, they have such a position now. The dichotomy between urban and rural is not absolute in Red Sea Province just as it is not absolute anywhere else in the world. The urban and the rural coalesce in such towns as Derudeb, Sinkat, Tokar and Haya and places in Port Sudan such as Daym al-'arab, Hai Walli, Daym al-wuhda, and Ongwob where goats and sheep are more numerous than people and camels more populous than automobiles. There is a constant drift and exchange of people and products between these places, rural Red Sea Province, the rest of the Sudan, and the world. It seems that a more targeted approach is needed to help marginalised people in Red Sea Province and that the urban countryside, quarters like Daym al-'arab and towns like Derudeb, may be the best places from which to begin assisting the rural areas.