- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The “Lost Boys” of Sudan walked for months over punishing terrain and waded across rivers teeming with crocodiles to get to refugee camps in neighboring countries.

More than 20,000 orphans were forced from their homes because of civil war. For many, the journey was a death march. Only about half of them made it to the camps where aid workers gave them the doleful nickname.

The war ended with a peace agreement in 2005, but history now is repeating itself.

A massive humanitarian crisis, triggered by another conflict and heightened by an approaching rainy season, is threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of people along the border between Sudan and South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation.

Sudanese troops have been engaged since last summer in a battle with southern rebels in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile north of the border.

As many as a quarter-million people in South Kordofan are “one step short of famine,” Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, told U.S. lawmakers at a congressional hearing last week.

More than half a million people have been killed in or displaced by the fighting.

“We may not know them as the Lost Boys, but their suffering is the same as ours,” said Thon “William” Chol, one of the Lost Boys who now lives in Washington.

Mr. Chol fled to a refugee camp in Ethiopia after Sudanese troops in 1987 attacked his village in Jonglei state, now part of South Sudan. Most of his family were killed in the attack. Mr. Chol was 4 years old at the time.

On the brink of war

Nine months since South Sudan became independent from Sudan, the two nations teeter on the brink of an all-out war.

Clashes between their armies escalated in April and militias continue to wage dangerous proxy wars deep inside each country’s territory.

Sudan this week declared a state of emergency in areas bordering South Sudan, giving authorities wide powers of arrest.

On Tuesday, the South claimed to have killed 27 Sudanese soldiers, as Sudan accused the South of “widening the aggression.”

Instability in oil-rich South Sudan will have an impact on global gas prices. There is also a risk that neighboring countries will get sucked into the conflict, which would divert resources from the fight against al-Shabab militants in Somalia and the hunt for Lord’s Resistance Army rebel leader Joseph Kony in Central Africa.

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