NAIROBI - World Vision has joined other aid agencies in interrupting its operations in southern Sudan following its refusal to sign an agreement with the Sudanese rebel government that would have jeopardized its staff and work.
About 50 World Vision expatriate staff have been withdrawn from southern Sudan, however, more than 500 Sudanese staff and volunteers will remain and continue serving poor and displaced people working under the auspices of the United Nations, which is not required to sign the agreement.
"It is regrettable that this difficult course of action became necessary," said Bruce Wilkinson, World Vision Senior Vice President for International Programs. "But we and many other agencies believe this agreement violates internationally recognized codes of conduct for private relief organizations, and would prevent us from providing humanitarian aid in a professional and objective manner."
Specifically, the agreement with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), whose army controls much of southern Sudan, would have placed World Vision staff, equipment and relief aid under its control. With little if any warning, SPLA soldiers would have had authority to confiscate vehicles, communications equipment and food for their own use.
SPLA leaders had given World Vision and other aid agencies until today either to sign or leave the areas under SPLA control.
World Vision has worked in Sudan for almost two decades and, over the past 10 years has provided more than $60 million in aid to people who have been forced from their homes, many of them repeatedly, by famine and a civil war which has lasted nearly 20 years.
"We are deeply committed to the people of Sudan," said Wilkinson. "It is our fervent hope that we can return soon to conduct relief operations that are consistent with humanitarian principles and serve the best interests of the people of this country."
World Vision is the largest, privately funded Christian humanitarian aid agency in the world, serving more than 80 million people annually in nearly 100 countries.
Copyright 2000 World Vision Inc.