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UN urges Sudanese parties to provide full access to relief flights

UN urges Sudanese parties to provide full access to relief flights

Warning that intensive fighting and flight bans in the Sudan are seriously hampering relief efforts in the strife-torn country, the United Nations today urged the warring parties to provide full access to all locations.

“We cannot allow a repeat of the 1998 famine, when a combination of dry season fighting and denials of humanitarian access brought about massive starvation,” said UN Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Kenzo Oshima. “We need access, and we need it now.”

The UN called on the Government of the Sudan and the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) to lift all bans, and to facilitate access to people in serious need of assistance before the humanitarian situation deteriorates further.

The Government has denied access to more than 40 locations since late March, effectively cutting off humanitarian supply lines into parts of Eastern Equatoria, Bahr El Gazal, and Western Upper Nile – affecting well over 1 million people dependent on outside assistance to survive, according to the UN. The SPLM has restricted flights to the city of Wau.

At the same time, fighting has intensified in Bahr El Gazal and Western Upper Nile, further hampering humanitarian operations. With the dry season nearly over, humanitarian agencies hope to increase their relief shipments before rains set in, rendering many roads impassable.

Briefing the press in New York, Tom Vraalsen, the UN Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs in the Sudan, said the appeal sought to get both parties to grant access for the delivery of food and supplies to needy people. “We are doing our level best, and we are constantly in touch with representatives from both sides to see to it that we get the access,” he added.

Kevin Kennedy, Chief of the UN’s Humanitarian Emergency Branch, told reporters that the UN was calling on both parties “to allow humanitarian organizations to go forward, bearing in mind that in the Sudan, the UN and its partner non-governmental organizations deliver assistance to nearly 6 million people” in the country. He added that the effort was likely the largest humanitarian relief programme in the world.