HC Deb 24 March 1890 vol 342 cc1687-9

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the attention of Her Majesty's Government has been drawn to the statements as to alleged cannibalism at Suakin, made in the Daily Telegraph of 11th March; and whether any official inquiry will be made into the truth of those statements and the present condition of the Soudanese in the neighbourhood of Suakin?


The latest intelligence on the subject is contained in a Report received on Saturday from Her Majesty's Consul at Suakin. It describes the shocking state of destitution among the Arabs who have collected outside the place. No mention is made of acts of cannibalism; but he states that he has seen children devouring the foulest refuse, and that cats are eaten. He believes that the daily death-rate may be taken as about 11, but adds that there must be a great loss of life in the far interior to which no remedy can be applied. A local committee is organising relief; £500 has been contributed by the Egyptian Government; a hospital for the worst cases has been established; food is distributed to 2,000 starving people daily, and relief works are being organised; but I fear that the supplies are inadequate to the growing demands. As to the causes of this distress besides war, owing to the want of rain during the past three years, there has been a failure of the harvests in the Soudan, and the dhonrra, crop due in January was destroyed by locusts. This has led the Arabs to draw down from a great distance towards Suakin in the hope of obtaining relief. Her Majesty's Consul at Suakin expresses a hope that additional funds may be provided for the relief of this great misery by charitable contributions in this country; and a relief fund has been opened at Messrs Cox & Co. The best help would be the despatch of at least £500 to the Consul at Suakin.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the desirability of sending out cargoes of grain or supplies of that nature?


This is a matter which has only lately come to our notice, and we are informed that the starving people have only lately collected there. It is hoped that private benevolence may meet the case.


May I ask whether Her Majesty's Government will make representations to the Egyptian Government, in order to induce them to increase the amount of relief they propose to give, having in view also the wholesome political results that may accrue?


I will convey your suggestion to the Secretary of State.

* THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster

I may inform the hon. Gentleman that at the present moment the Egyptian Government are distributing relief.