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Humanitarian access urged for South Kordofan

A humanitarian crisis looms amidst fighting in South Kordofan state in Sudan. Aid agencies are urging the UN and other bodies to pressure Khartoum into allowing the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid .

Fighting between Sudan's army and rebels in South Kordofan has displaced  thousands of civilians and created a humanitarian crisis.

Aid agencies are calling on the UN, the Arab League and the African Union to exert pressure on the Sudanese government in Khartoum so that it permits humanitarian aid to be sent to the region.

Over 160,000 people are reported to be without food, medicine and clean water in the oil rich state of South Kordofan, international humanitarian aid agencies say.  They "remain extremely concerned" by reports of immense civilian suffering.

“The needs in South Kordofan are significant and we are working very hard to see  that we  are  able  to  access  those  areas  as  soon  as  possible,” said Challis  McDonough, spokesperson for the World Food Program (WFP) in East and Central Africa.

Workers unload food for distribution at the Yida refugee camp in Unity State, South Sudan. (Foto:Pete Muller/AP/dapd)

Aid agencies want to bring food and medical supplies to South Kordofan

Seeking permission

WFP is one of the organisations seeking permission from the government in Khartoum to bring aid to the suffering people of South Kordofan.

Khartoum has cited security concerns as one reason for severely restricting the activities of foreign aid agencies in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. These are two  states in which SPLM-N insurgents operate.

"It is a relatively complicated situation in the areas that are held by the opposition rebels. The access is still being negotiated,” McDonough says.

The conflict in South Kordofan began in June last year when the Sudan Revolutionary Front took control of strategic areas near its capital Kadugli as well as Talodi and Tungaru towns, west of the River Nile.

The rebels fought alongside South Sudan's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA)  during Sudan's 22-year civil war, which ended with a 2005 peace deal that lead to South Sudan's independence in July last year. South Kordofan is one of the fifteen states that make up the Republic of Sudan.

An SPLM-N fighter sits on a camouflaged truck at a bush camp. Copyright: Jared Ferrie, DW freier Mitarbeiter, Kurmuk, Sudan October 2011

Almost a million people have been affected by the fighting in South Kordofan

Accusing former allies

The Khartoum government of President Omar Hassan Ahmed El Bashir accuses  newly-independent South Sudan of supporting its former allies militarily.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir acknowledged the role played by rebels in neighboring Sudan, but denied that his government supports them in the current  conflict in South Kordofan.

“We will not be involved in the conflict that is going on between the Khartoum  government and the people of South Kordofan state,” the president said.

Over the past three months, thousands of civilians have fled South Kordofan and crossed into neighboring South Sudan where they have taken refuge.

The United Nations's refugee agency (UNHCR) says 175,000 people have fled to South Sudan and another 38,000 have been registered as refugees in Ethiopia. But other people still in the area face problems of food shortages and starvation.

A woman is transported on a cart to a clinic. REUTERS/Margaret Aguirre/International Medical Corps/Handout (SOUTH SUDAN - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

Food, medical care and clean water are in short supply in South Kordofan

More than a year of talks has so far failed to get food aid into rebel zones where serious food shortages are reported, the UN says.

"Engineered genocide"

Meanwhile, Khartoum's troops are allegedly setting up roadblocks to prevent  humanitarian aid from reaching the needy.

Agina Ojwang is a specialist on the two Sudans and he described the blockade as  ‘engineered genocide'.

He told DW's Nairobi correspondent James Shimanyula that the UN should take punitive action against the authorities in  Khartoum to compel them to grant permission to international agencies to deliver  the much needed help.

“The UN must invoke its powers to ensure that any interference with humanitarian aid going to South Kordofan, is punished militarily,” he said.

 “A UN intevention would create a no-fly zone in the area and will prevent Khartoum from using ground to air missiles they own in that area,” he added.

Suffering without end

Just last week, a child was killed and four others wounded when an aircraft bombed villages in the state of South Kordofan during the Eid holiday weekend. Rebels in the area accused the government of mounting the air raid.

Since fighting began there have been repeated allegations, denied by Khartoum, that civilians were bombed from the air. 

The UN says the war in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, where SPLM-N is also fighting, has affected the lives of an estimated 900,000 people.

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