UN calls for full humanitarian access

Senior United Nations humanitarian officials today called on both parties to the conflict in Sudan to lift all bans on humanitarian aid flights and to grant full access to people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

“We are appealing to both sides to give us access so we can get food and non-food items to people who need it,” Ambassador Tom Vraalsen, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan, told reporters in New York today.

The Sudanese government has denied access to more than 40 locations since late March, double the usual number of denials, effectively cutting off humanitarian supply lines into parts of Eastern Equatoria, Bahr al-Ghazal, and western Upper Nile (Wahdah State), according to a statement issued by the UN’s Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (ECHA).

Over a million people dependant on relief assistance for survival are affected, the statement said.

The Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), for their part, has restricted flights to the strategic town of Wau in Bahr al-Ghazal, according to ECHA.

“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,” United Nations Emergency Relief Co-coordinator Kenzo Oshima said. “We need access, and we need it now.”

The lack of humanitarian access coincides with the end of the dry season, a time when aid agencies seek to increase their shipments of relief supplies in preparation for the rainy season, which renders many roads impassable.