This week the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced it had started distributing aid in Sudan’s conflict-affected Blue Nile state. Previously WFP had not been granted access to this area where rebels (SPLM-N) are fighting Sudan’s government.
Now food aid must be allowed into South Kordofan state which, like Blue Nile, has been devastated by this same conflict. There are reports of tremendous suffering in South Kordofan. Yet aid is not allowed to go through.
The fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile has caused thousands to flee these two states, but many others remain behind and are suffering from food shortages. Here Sudanese women and children wait for treatment for malnutrition at Yida refugee camp in South Sudan. (UNHCR/K.Mahoney)
In a joint statement in March, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “We remain deeply concerned by the security and humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan. It is imperative that both Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) seize the opportunity of direct talks to address the urgent need for a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access to all areas, and the longer-term political solution. We welcome SPLM-N’s acceptance of the invitation to direct talks and urge the Government of Sudan to do the same, without pre-conditions.”
Currently, the World Food Programme and aid groups are able to operate only in the government-held areas of South Kordofan. Save the Children Sweden has done nutrition screenings for children under five years old in parts of South Kordofan under government control. So far 89,482 have been screened with around 15,000 of the children either moderately or severely malnourished. Plumpy’Nut, a special peanut paste, is being used to treat the children. Without the treatment children will suffer lasting physical and mental damage from malnutrition.
With reports of people living off roots and leaves in the conflict zones of South Kordofan, malnutrition rates would be expected to go much higher. The World Food Programme and other aid groups need access to all of South Kordofan.
Meanwhile, funding is urgently needed for the relief effort in Blue Nile. WFP Sudan Country Director Adnan Khan, speaking of Blue Nile, says, “While we continue to strive for access to all areas, this is still a major breakthrough which will enable us to assist those who continue to be displaced by the conflict or those who have decided to return to their homes and are in dire need of food assistance. For this immediate response, we will need an additional US $20.5 million which will be used to buy 17,000 metric tons of food.”