Sudan dismisses fear of looming humanitarian crisis

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 17, 2012 3:50 PM

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday dismissed U.N. and U.S. concerns about a mounting humanitarian crisis in two Sudanese border states, saying the situation there was "normal."

Khartoum's U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman was responding to a letter to the Security Council from U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who voiced "grave concern about the worsening humanitarian crisis in the Sudanese states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile."

Rice said in the letter, which was obtained by Reuters, that Khartoum was preventing U.N. and non-governmental humanitarian aid organizations from accessing large parts of both states, which border newly independent South Sudan.

"The humanitarian situation in the Blue Nile and in Southern Kordofan is normal," Osman told reporters. "The government of Sudan is cooperating with (U.N. agencies) ... to channel relief materials to all needy people in the areas which were captured from the rebels by the Sudanese Armed Forces."

Earlier this month the U.N. humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, said the United Nations had received alarming reports of malnutrition in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, where the Sudanese army is fighting insurgents.

Rice said that if Khartoum does not allow "immediate and meaningful humanitarian access to the conflict zones in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile ... we will likely see famine conditions in parts of Sudan."

She cited forecasts by food security analysts who predict that the situation in the two Sudanese states will deteriorate sharply by March if aid flows to the region do not increase.

Osman denied that there were any restrictions on aid agencies accessing Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. However, he later said that aid agencies were not welcome in areas where rebel groups, which he accused South Sudan of aiding, were concentrated.

"These areas are not safe for the humanitarian personnel," he said. "It is our moral obligation to protect the humanitarian personnel from the danger which can be caused by the rebels. Until we find a solution to that it would be difficult for them to have full access to those few pockets."

He added that some countries and individual aid agency personnel sympathized with the rebels and were supplying them with weapons and ammunition.

Such rebel sympathizers might "want the agencies to provide the rebels with food," which Osman said was not the responsibility of the Sudanese government.

Fighting broke out in June between the Sudanese army and SPLM-North rebels in South Kordofan and spread in September to the state of Blue Nile.

The violence has already forced about 417,000 people to flee their homes, more than 80,000 of them to South Sudan, the United Nations estimates. Locals have faced air raids and sporadic ground fighting, according to rights groups and refugees.

(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)