Blocked Access Deepens Humanitarian Crisis in Sudan
|Ongoing fighting and flight bans have put thousands of South Sudanese, like this girl, outside the reach of humanitarian aid. (Photo: Rick Brennan/IRC)|
The IRC and eight other aid agencies working in Sudan have warned of the potential of a worsening humanitarian crisis in the south of the country as ongoing fighting and flight bans cut off access to hundreds of thousands of civilians in need.
In a statement Thursday, the nine groups urged the warring parties to guarantee "periods and zones of tranquility" during which fighting would be suspended to ensure aid can safely reach affected populations. The request for such "humanitarian space" stems from a series of peace-building measures proposed by U.S. special peace envoy John Danforth in a report to the White House on May 7.
"The situation in Southern Sudan is indeed serious and action is needed immediately," said Sandra Mitchell, the IRC's vice president for government relations. "Thousands of people have been cut-off from humanitarian relief and the risk of starvation is imminent."
The aid organizations also "urged the international community to make clear the extreme urgency of the situation to their Sudanese counterparts and to press for immediate humanitarian access."
The statement said the fighting and flight bans are having a dire affect on three areas of southern Sudan: Bahr el-Ghazal, Eastern Equatoria and western Upper Nile. The flight bans, imposed by the government of Sudan, have been in place in various locations in the south from three months to three years.
"An area of land, roughly the size of France is now off-limits to large-scale relief efforts," the organizations said. In the meantime, increased fighting has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes at a critical moment. "It's the start of the planting season when crops must be sown to avoid a potentially life-threatening food crisis," the statement added.
The fighting, in part over control of natural resources, pits the Sudanese government army and aligned militia forces against the southern-based rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army.
In his report to the White House this month, special envoy Danforth called for a negotiated end to the 19-year civil war in Sudan, with the United States facilitating the process.
The IRC and other leading aid agencies endorsed Danforth's peace proposals and offered the following recommendations:
- That the confidence-building measures already agreed upon by the warring parties be fully implemented and monitored by the international community;
- That recent progress quickly lead to an expanded but convergent peace process that engages all parties to the conflict, regional actors and key members of the international community.
- That the achievement of a just and sustainable peace must be the centerpiece of any Sudan policy, and that President Bush ask the Secretary of State to take leadership of this effort, and
- That the U.S. along with key actors in the conflict and the international community commit to engagement in Sudan that is long term, well coordinated and adequately funded.