According to UN statement availed to PANA here, the area was recently opened to aid agencies after lengthy negotiations between the UN, the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in mid-January.
UN Agencies and NGOs conducted a joint assessment last month, in collaboration with the Sudanese government and SPLM/A.
The investigators found that over 90 percent of the total population requires food assistance. The situation is more precarious for internally displaced persons (IDPs), more than 60% of them children and women. Their survival is challenged by the combination lack of food and frequent diseases.
"Food is one of the most pressing needs in the area," said Ronald Sibanda, WFP's Country Director for Sudan.
"War and drought have taken a vicious toll on the population, with many people risking hunger-related death if food is not provided urgently."
The investigators also found an exaggerated dependence on the seasonal water sources that are gradually disappearing with the progression of the dry season.
Household latrines were non-existent. Many primary schools need urgent rehabilitation, and they operate without textbooks and other basic supplies.
Blue Nile State, which up to 1997 was a net exporter of grain, faces a very insecure food situation with over 17 percent of the population displaced between 1997 and 2002.
The massive displacement and death caused by the prevailing insecurity in the region, has resulted in a significant loss of assets, particularly livestock.
The situation was aggravated by low rainfall last year. The harvest was well below normal; poor pastures and lack of water had a devastating effect on livestock; and even fishing was affected because of the low water levels in the rivers, says the UN report.
Families rely on very limited supplies of sorghum from the scarce harvest and wild roots. Most livestock died and prices of food, especially sorghum are reported to be very high and soaring with exchange levels at one goat for two bags of grain, as opposed to one goat to six bags a year ago.
During the initial intervention in both government controlled and SPLM/A areas, WFP will truck and airdrop a total of 934 tons of various relief food commodities, to cover the needs of over 79,000 people for one month.
UNICEF will provide essential drugs, water and sanitation supplies, such as water pumps and latrines, as well as teaching, learning and recreation kits to support the education and basic development needs for over 2,500 children in ten basic schools.
WFP will distribute a one-month ration to areas identified by the recent assessment as critically food insecure. Food distribution teams will continue to assess the situation on the ground, and WFP will provide food as needed in the months leading up to the next harvest in October 2003.
Food will be provided through general distribution and "food-for- work" projects, whereby those who participate in rehabilitation projects are rewarded with food.
UNICEF's supply of essential drugs, primary healthcare and maternal and child health kits are expected to meet the basic health requirements over a three-month period.
In addition, supplies of Unimix, corn-Soya blend and BP-5 high- protein biscuits will be used for therapeutic feeding of 70 percent of the severely to moderately malnourished children over a six-month period.
Plastic cans and pieces of soap will be distributed to 1,000 families to address immediate water collection and hygiene needs.
Within this month, UNICEF will support the construction of 120 hand pumps to provide safe drinking water to about 30,000 persons.
Initially, 25 latrines will be constructed in schools to provide safe sanitary means of waste disposal for at least 5,000 pupils. School supplies will be distributed to 2,500 children in primary schools to assist in restoring normalcy among war-displaced children.
"Families have lost most of their resources and access to food and other basic services is extremely limited," said UNICEF Representative Joanna Van Gerpen.
"This is having a terrible impact on populations also suffering from lack of drinking water and poor health care. People are very vulnerable to diseases, in particular women and children, whose lives are seriously at risk.
"It is therefore crucial that both the government and SPLA adhere to their commitment to a cease-fire, especially to this humanitarian access agreement with the UN."
- Pan African News Agency
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