No crisis in S. Kordofan, Sudan says as aid deal lapses
11/06/2012 14:22 GMT
by Ian Timberlake
KHARTOUM, Nov 6, 2012 (AFP) - There is no humanitarian crisis in wartorn South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, Sudan said on Tuesday as an international plan to get aid into the area expired without any food reaching the hungry.
Despite months of talks about reaching needy people in rebel-held areas of the two border states, where fighting began more than a year ago, the number of those affected by the war has continued to increase.
More than 240,000 people have now sought refuge in neighbouring South Sudan and Ethiopia, the United Nations said last Friday.
Including the refugees, more than 900,000 people are estimated to be displaced or severely affected, the UN has said, noting reports of serious food shortages and lack of adequate health care in rebel-held areas.
"There is no humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and Blue Nile but there is a humanitarian need and it has to be taken care of, especially in the health sector and drinking water," Sudan's top aid official, Sulaiman Abdul Rahman said.
"The humanitarian situation, even in the area controlled by rebels, is at the natural level," he told reporters on Tuesday.
He confirmed the expiry of a memorandum, reached with the UN, Arab League and African Union, which was supposed to allow for aid delivery throughout the warzone, including to rebel areas.
"It's a failure," Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, spokesman for the insurgent Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), said of the plan.
The three organisations issued their "Tripartite" proposal in February as international concern mounted over malnutrition and food shortages in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where Khartoum had cited security worries in tightly restricting the operations of foreign aid agencies.
SPLM-N agreed to the plan in February, followed by Khartoum in June.
Memoranda to implement the deals were not signed separately with the government and rebels until August 4 and 5.
The memoranda were valid for 90 days and called for ceasefire zones that would allow aid to flow.
But the agreements were never implemented.
The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said last month that the UN, AU and Arab League presented various detailed plans but "neither the government nor the SPLM-N have yet formally agreed on a concrete plan of action for assessment and delivery of aid."
Abdul Rahman blamed Sudan's Tripartite partners for the delay but put "full responsibility" on the rebels.
"They are trying to make the people flee from Kadugli and other areas and this will make their humanitarian situation worse," he said.
Since last month the rebels have periodically fired mortar rounds at Kadugli town, the capital of South Kordofan. They say they are targeting military facilities in retaliation for government air raids but official media say several civilians have been killed.
More mortar fire hit Kadugli on Monday, the government and SPLM-N confirmed.
A witness told AFP that one shell landed in a military hospital compound.
"I saw one person injured," he said.
The rebel spokesman said Khartoum had delayed the Tripartite process, and any renewal of the memoranda "should be based on serious action by the government of Sudan to allow unconditional access" to rebel zones.
A diplomatic source, speaking before the memoranda lapsed, suggested rebels were the holdup and called the humanitarian issue "an important card for them to play".
Regardless of the Tripartite plan the government, with international support, has been providing aid within areas it controls.
Damian Rance, of OCHA, told AFP on Tuesday that the UN will continue "to pursue avenues to facilitate humanitarian assistance to people who need it in South Kordofan and Blue Nile."
The ethnic and religious-minority SPLM-N belongs to an alliance of Sudanese rebels seeking to overthrow the Islamist Khartoum regime.
Rebels have reported an upsurge in fighting since Sudan and South Sudan in September signed a deal for a demilitarised border buffer zone designed to cut support for the insurgency.
Khartoum alleges that support comes from South Sudan, which separated in July last year.
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