July 29, 1968

Famine Conditions Worsen in Biafra

Statistics of food crisis in the Republic of Biafra is a scene of the everyday reality of death. Death strikes everywhere: in hospitals, in mission stations, even by the roadside. At the Okpala Mission 80 miles west of Obinze, the Rev. Ken Doheny is close to weeping as 7,000 children assemble at dusk, their bony hands outstretched. They used to come here every night for a little soup, milk or bean, he reports. “Now we have nothing left. This is a children's war. They're all doomed, the lot of them.” Relief workers in Biafra believe that only a massive airlift of food, so far blocked by politics and pride, can save the people of Biafra from the starvation that now appears rampant.

Just a trickle of food and medicine has reached this breakaway region of Nigerian aboard blockade-running planes landing at night. It has been a drop in the bucket. So far, the Nigerian Government in Lagos has refused to authorize planes to fly direct to Biafra by day, but has said that it wants a land corridor into Biafra from Enugu, north of the front line. asked about the death toll, Dr. Herman Middlekoop, an official of the World Council of Churches, says "This week I just can't give a figure. It's accelerating every hour. It's a desperate situation, That's all I can say." On the roadside near this muddy little junction town Obinze in southern Biafra, eight old women sit motionless in the rain, too weak to walk. A ninth woman, who is cradled on the arms of her friend, is dead, but her friend keeps talking to her as if she were still alive.

The International Committee of the Red Cross announced today that its mercy flights of medical and food supplies to Biafra had been halted by technical difficulties.

Top officials of the all Swiss Committee declined to expand on the announcement as a news conference, except to say that the difficulties concerned arrangements for landing in the territory of the rebel region of Nigeria. Only last week, the committee dispatched a chartered four-engine plane form Geneva to continue the shuttle from Fernando Po, a Spanish island off the Nigeria coast, to the besieged Biafrans. A total of 16 flights were flown since the start of the aid operations last April, but Roger Gallopin, an executive director of the humanitarian agency, stressed that the air transport of emergency relief supplies from Fernando Po had always been considered to be only a temporary and precarious arrangement. (New York Times)

July 30, 1968

United States Urges Restraint by Both Sides

The United States Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Rusk, today urged both sides in the Nigerian civil war to show utmost restraint in military operations to facilitate peace talks. The call, made at a conference today, is seen as seeking to dissuade Nigerian military commanders from seeking to crush Biafra before talks are in progress and to deter Biafrans from engaging in attacks that could provoke retaliation.

Recalling President Lyndon Johnson's stand on civilian suffering, Mr. Rusk said that the United States continues to be concerned about civilian victims of the war. He put American contribution so far at $7.3 million and called for progress on efforts to get food to the starving areas. he also announced that some supplies are beginning to move into the heart of Biafra and that the Nigerian Government has agreed to allow specially painted IRC cargo planes to fly relief to Biafra. He put children's deaths at 200 to 400 per day. (New York Times)

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