The United States has been the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Sudan and South Sudan for more than a quarter century. The relationship was cemented in the early 1980s, after Sudan became one of only three Arab League states to support the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel.
By 1984, USAID’s budget for Sudan included:
- $25 million in development assistance
- $50 million to finance the sale of agricultural products
- $120 million commodity import program
Emergency assistance and food aid increased dramatically in 1984 and 85 in response to a drought emergency in Darfur and Kordofan; some rural Sudanese still talk about the “Reagan sorghum” of the 1980s that saved tens of thousands of lives. During 1988—a year that saw a massive famine in Bahr al Ghazal, floods in Khartoum and locusts in Darfur—USAID spearheaded the emergency response and helped create Operation Lifeline Sudan, a negotiated system that allowed humanitarian assistance to reach a vast, previously impenetrable part of the war-affected south.
By the late 1980s, Khartoum was home to the largest USAID mission in sub-Saharan Africa. USAID also had a presence in Juba after building an office and residential compound at Jebel Kujur in the early 1980s.
Development programs included:
- Agricultural research and planning
- Energy management
- Commodity imports
- Rural health
In the South, programs promoted agriculture, literacy, vocational training, primary health care and water resources. The United States also played a key role in World Bank- and IMF-led policy reform programs that focused on the exchange rate, subsidies and pricing adjustments. USAID provided cash support to these reforms, including a $50 million grant for a petroleum initiative.
Following the 1989 coup d’état, the United States initiated implementation of Section 513 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. By Dec. 31, 1991, all bilateral project assistance activities were terminated, and by April 1992, USAID was officially downsized to a small Aid Affairs Office that handled humanitarian assistance. In August 1992, after USAID’s international staff had evacuated Juba, four Sudanese USAID staff were interrogated and executed by military intelligence.
For the next decade, American assistance concentrated on emergency response to conflicts, droughts and floods—food, medicine, water facilities, seeds and tools, and logistical support.
In 1993 and 1994, some rehabilitation programs were established in stable areas in the south to encourage the re-establishment of markets and improve livelihoods. By the mid-1990s, projects in Tambura, Yambio, Yei and Maridi focused on rehabilitating internal roads and agricultural practices, and small grants in Eastern and Western Equatoria funded activities in food security, income generation and health.
In 1998, at the urging of Congress, the White House changed policy to allow the United States to provide development assistance to opposition-held areas alongside humanitarian aid countrywide. Rehabilitation activities sought to promote participatory democracy and good governance while reducing reliance on relief in opposition-held parts of southern Sudan. Grants were targeted to promote grassroots civil society, and trainings were held to increase the capacity of county authorities in finance, governance and accountability.
A modest $3million to $4 million annual development assistance program jumped to $11 million in 2001, when then-USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios determined to support basic education and agricultural recovery in stable areas of the South as a way to prepare for peace. President Bush appointed Natsios as Special Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan in May 2001 and former Senator John Danforth as Special Envoy for Peace in September 2001. That year, USAID established the Sudan Task Force to support peace and humanitarian efforts, including the drafting and implementation of Danforth’s “four tests,” which measured the warring parties’ commitment to peace.
In July 2001, Natsios negotiated with the government and Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement to allow one relief flight to bring assistance to the Nuba Mountains, a largely inaccessible area where drought and war threatened a famine. The parties agreed and 8 tons of wheat were delivered to Kauda on Aug. 30. The United States then worked with the parties to establish a 30-day military stand-down, which allowed the United Nations to deliver an additional 2,000 tons of food to the area. With support from the U.S. and Swiss Governments, a ceasefire for the Nuba Mountains was signed in January 2002, followed by the Machakos Protocol in July 2002, which established the premise of “one country, two systems.” USAID observers attended the Machakos negotiations, as well as the next round, in Naivasha, Kenya.
Since 2001, the United States, alongside Norway and the United Kingdom, has led international efforts to increase humanitarian access to Sudan, protect civilians, establish and monitor a ceasefire, and reinvigorate the Kenya-led peace negotiations. USAID invested in reconstruction programs—democracy and governance, education, health and economic recovery—that support a sustainable peace and rely on the broad participation of the Sudanese people.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Nairobi, on January 9, 2005, ushering in a new era of American assistance in Sudan. The country became a U.S. priority in Africa, and among the highest in the world.
In southern Sudan, USAID provided an integrated program of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to war-affected communities:
- Assisting displaced people
- Providing basic services and food
- Improving food security through agriculture and economic development
In 2003, a separate conflict began in Darfur that affected 4.7 million people. USAID has been a leader in the massive international assistance program in Darfur, providing extensive humanitarian and food aid, working to ensure humanitarian access in unstable areas, and supporting political negotiations aimed at ending the violence. Though violence persists, pockets of stability have allowed USAID partners to begin to transition some of their activities from emergency response to recovery.
Following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, the U.S. Government provided assistance that:
- Helped to transform the Government of Southern Sudan from a concept in the CPA to a functioning regional government.
- Provided a million people with access to clean water.
- Helped to increase children’s enrollment in schools from 20 percent in 2005 to 68 percent in 2010.
To jumpstart post-war economic opportunities, USAID has established tools such as microfinance institutions. The Agency's support has repaired and improved hundreds of miles of roads and built bridges and electric power stations to boost economic growth, trade and security. The United States also provided assistance that was essential to hold the January 2011 referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan.
South Sudan became an independent nation on July 9, 2011. Following conflict that erupted in December 2013, USAID increased its humanitarian assistance and conducted a thorough review of its development portfolio to determine how USAID can best help meet the needs of the people of South Sudan. As a result, USAID is redirecting its assistance to help build the foundation for a more stable and socially cohesive South Sudan by promoting recovery through community-led response, delivery of critical services and increased focus on disaster preparedness and risk reduction, by enabling lasting peace at both the national and community levels, and by protecting the hard-fought development gains that were achieved during and since the CPA.
Last updated: February 23, 2015