The United Nations says it has started providing urgently-needed food assistance in Sudan's Blue Nile state for the first time since rebels began an uprising 18 months ago.
The U.N. World Food Program Thursday called the development a "major breakthrough." The Sudanese government, citing security concerns, had put severe limits on the movement of foreign aid workers, diplomats and reporters who tried to enter the region.
In a statement, the WFP's Arduino Mangoni said the agency will immediately target 51,000 people in Geissan and Kurmuk, two of the areas most severely affected by the conflict. He said the goal is to provide assistance before the onset of the rainy season in May.
The fighting in Blue Nile and another state, South Kordofan, has largely escaped international attention.
The SPLM-North, an offshoot of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, has been fighting the Khartoum government since mid-2011. The clashes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, with many fleeing to Ethiopia and South Sudan.
South Sudan denies Sudan's charges it is supporting the rebels.