Sudan: United States Commits U.S.$150 Million to UN Food Aid in Blue Nile

Khartoum — The United States has contributed $150 million to help relieve food insecurity in Sudan's war-torn Blue Nile state where conflict in the region continues to exact a growing human toll.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) was recently allowed into the area to deliver urgent food aid for the first time since the conflict broke out in September 2011.

The agency began distributing food assistance on Thursday to some 51,000 people in the worst-affected areas.

The US is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance in Sudan and says its $150 million contribution to the WFP will help meet some of the emergency needs due to conflict-induced food shortage in Blue Nile State.

WFP plans to reach some 12,000 people in Geissan and another 39,000 in Kurmuk, where people remain in dire need of food assistance.

Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir had earlier barred aid agencies from providing humanitarian assistance in Blue Nile and neighbouring South Kordofan on the basis that rebel fighters could benefit from the humanitarian assistance, namely in terms of food and logistical support.

The Sudanese government's decision to allow the WFP access to some conflict-affected areas in Blue Nile comes after authorities earlier gave permission for its teams to operate in a limited capacity inside neighbouring South Kordofan, although rebel-held zones in both states remain off-limits.

In a statement issued by the US embassy in Khartoum on Friday, the United States calls on both the Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N) to allow for unfettered humanitarian access in both Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

The UN has dramatically increased its assessment of the number of people affected by conflict to more than 1million people, an increase of more than 50 per cent.

The fighting in the state has also displaced tens of thousands of people, with many fleeing to South Sudan and Ethiopia to escape the violence.

WFP findings now show that 110,000 Sudanese citizens are in dire need of urgent humanitarian assistance and food in six localities alone in Blue Nile State.

WFP says it hopes to provide a two-month ration to affected populations in all localities for April and May.

However, the agency still needs additional resources to provide food from April through December.

"The United States affirms its commitment to the WFP and urgently calls on other donors to participate in this vital undertaking to prevent a greater humanitarian crisis and soon, so that WFP can procure and deliver food before the rainy season prevents access to the affected populations," the embassy said in its statement.

Meanwhile, the SPLM-N has dismissed statements by the WFP hailing its expanded humanitarian operation as a "major breakthrough", stressing that areas under its control would not be included.

"What took place is that Khartoum allowed the WFP to work in a limited area controlled by Khartoum and they made big news out of that", SPLM-N secretary-general Yasir Arman said on Friday.

Fighting in Blue Nile erupted a few months after South Kordofan when rebel fighters from the Southern-aligned SPLM-N launched an insurgency against the Khartoum government shortly after South Sudan seceded in July 2011.

SPLM-N rebels fought alongside Southern fighters during their struggle to gain independence and Khartoum has repeatedly accused Juba of backing its former allies in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. An accusation denied by South Sudan, which says it has severed all ties with the group.

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