OLS evacuates NGO staff from Southern Sudan

Khartoum, Nairobi, Geneva, New York. 1 March 2000 - The United Nations Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today confirmed on behalf of Operation Lifeline Sudan the evacuation of 149 staff members of Non-Governmental Organizations working under the umbrella of Operation Lifeline Sudan in areas of southern Sudan controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).
The evacuation encompasses 11 of the 35 NGOs working in SPLM-administered areas as part of the Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS). This represents the temporary loss of a significant proportion of the humanitarian resources provided by the OLS NGOs. This has created a void in the OLS consortium's ability to provide adequate humanitarian assistance to the people of southern Sudan, already made vulnerable by decades of war and deprivation. The impact varies in magnitude on a sectoral and location basis, with some areas of Bahr el Ghazal and Jonglei, where fewer agencies remain, a particular concern. Emergency response, health, nutrition, household food security, and water and sanitation programmes will be hardest hit.

The confirmation followed a teleconference on Tuesday 29 February among UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR, OCHA and representatives of concerned NGOs from Geneva, New York, Nairobi and Lokichoggio, Kenya.

During that conference, representatives of the NGOs expressed disappointment that an agreement regarding the text of the Memorandum of Understanding could not be reached with the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA) - the humanitarian arm of the SPLM - after nine months of negotiations facilitated by the UN and donor governments and organizations. It is important to stress that all humanitarian actors involved in southern Sudan - including the United Nations - regret that this process has led to this situation.

The United Nations reiterated its commitment to do its utmost to facilitate an early resumption of negotiations on the MOU with the SRRA to pave the way for the return of all concerned NGOs for the benefit of the civilian populations in SPLM-controlled areas. Key provisions remaining to reach consensus on include a reaffirmation of humanitarian principles in the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations also urged donors in particular to maintain their support to the OLS operation.

During the Tuesday meeting, representatives of NGOs emphasized their shared difficulty in signing the current MOU. The 11 NGOs that found themselves unable to sign the Memorandum of Understanding before a 1 March 2000 deadline laid down by the SRRA, expressed their wish to return to Southern Sudan upon the successful negotiation of an agreed text.

Operation Lifeline Sudan is an emergency humanitarian programme serving war-affected people in the Sudan, with NGOs working alongside UN partner agencies including UNICEF and WFP.


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