UN aid agency says denied access in Sudan border area


The UN refugee agency urged Sudanese authorities to allow road and air access for aid workers trying to help thousands of people fleeing fighting in the border state of Southern Kordofan.

Sudan’s northern army has been battling southern-aligned troops in Kordofan, the north’s main oil state, since June 5. Humanitarian organizations fear a mounting death toll.

Humanitarian flights have been denied permission to land in the state capital Kadugli for nearly a week and roadblocks manned by armed militiamen have hampered land access, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said, Reuters reports.
“Insecurity means our operations are severely constrained and UNHCR is currently unable to reach a warehouse just 5 km (2 miles) from the UN peacekeeping mission’s base in the city,” spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told a news briefing.

Further underlining the deteriorating situation, the World Food Program and the World Health Organisation said premises belonging to the two UN agencies in the area had been looted.

South Sudan, whose army said northern warplanes bombed its territory Monday, is due to become independent on July 9.

Analysts see Southern Kordofan as a flashpoint in the build-up to the split because it is home to thousands of fighters who sided against Khartoum during the last civil war.

Fleming said the UNHCR knew of some 41,000 displaced people around Kadugli and the state, but it feared that many more were fleeing their homes, mostly children and women. Aid agencies had been able to deliver food and other help only to 6,000 people.
“This is far below the number we would be able to reach if we had secure access,” Fleming said.

Heavy fighting has been going on since last week and the confirmed death toll included 10 civilians, she said.

Leaders in the northern branch of the south’s dominant Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) said the fighting began when the northern army tried to disarm fighters. The northern army has blamed southern-aligned groups for provoking the clashes.

Southerners voted to secede in a January referendum, the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of north-south civil war. That conflict cost some 2 million lives.

The two sides have yet to settle a number of issues, such as where to draw the common border and how to divide oil revenues.