Anybody looking for an example of how internal strife can devastate a country can find it by focusing on the terrible tragedies taking place in Sudan.

People are starving daily. They're casualties of a 15-year-long civil war that already has claimed 1.5 million lives and led to many others being so malnourished they may never recover.Be assured that the leaders of the warring factions - Sudan's Islamic government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, which is supported by the United States - have plenty of food for themselves and their key military personnel. They have not only ignored the people but made it almost impossible for them to get food.

Farmland, which could feed much of the nation, is not cultivated because ongoing violence keeps farmers from their fields. The U.N. World Food Program is air-dropping 9,500 tons of food per month - at a cost of $30 million - into southern Sudan. But it's difficult to tell how much of it gets to the people who need it the most.

Government forces often loot the food supplies or burn them if they fear they may fall into rebel hands. The rebel forces are also accused of diverting relief food to their troops.

Even a three-month cease-fire to allow humanitarian access to some areas isn't expected to have much of an impact.

The civil war has prevented the normal type of public works projects that benefit communities. Southern Sudan lacks airstrips, roads and other basic infrastructure needed to enable a sustained relief effort. And the government won't allow military cargo aircraft, which can transport the most food for air drops, to fly into southern Sudan for fear they'll carry arms to the rebel forces.

The United Nations, the United States and other countries need to pressure both sides to reach an accommodation. Even if those efforts yield little progress they need to be maintained. They may be the only hope for a dwindling population.