News / Africa

US Warns of Impending Food Crisis in Parts of Sudan

Relief food of the World Food Program is offloaded in Pibor, South Sudan, Jan 12, 2012.
Relief food of the World Food Program is offloaded in Pibor, South Sudan, Jan 12, 2012.
Margaret Besheer

The United States is warning of a severe food crisis in parts of Sudan if the Khartoum government does not give the United Nations and its aid partners immediate access to the affected areas.

In a letter to the president of the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice warns that without new and substantial aid to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states before March, food security there will decline to an emergency level and parts of Sudan will eventually suffer a famine.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Ambassador Rice directly blamed Khartoum for the situation.

“The government of Sudan has deliberately denied access to international NGOs, the United Nations, and international humanitarian workers to the most affected populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile," said Rice. "The council discussed this at some length, and really this is a situation that is unconscionable and unacceptable.”

Ambassador Rice said efforts have been made to urge Sudan’s government to grant access to the affected areas but, despite talks, nothing has happened.

“We reiterate the call on the government of Sudan to allow full, immediate, unconditional access to all populations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile to avert what has the potential very soon to be a full-scale humanitarian crisis," she said. "Obviously, were that not to happen, we would all be gravely concerned and have to review a variety of other options for dealing with the crisis that is unfolding.”

But Sudan’s U.N. envoy, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, rejected Ambassador Rice’s warning of an impending food crisis, saying that in “99 percent” of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, the situation is “normal."

He acknowledged problems only in some “pockets” where, he said there are rebels he accuses of being armed and assisted by South Sudan," said Osman. "The envoy said it is not possible to allow aid workers into these areas because they are unsafe.  But he said that elsewhere access has not been impeded.

“The humanitarian situation in Blue Nile and in Southern Kordofan is normal and the government of Sudan is cooperating with OCHA, with [the] World Food Program, with UNICEF, with UNHCR to channel relief material to all needy people in the areas which were captured from the rebels by the Sudanese Armed Forces," he said.

Sudan's government has been fighting rebels in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan for several months.  The United Nations estimates that a half million people are severely affected by the conflict in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

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