The U.N.’s senior operational coordinator for humanitarian assistance briefed the Security Council on Tuesday on the unfolding travesty in Sudan’s southern states: South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Due to the Sudanese government’s intransigent refusal to allow humanitarian aid access to the two areas, the 230,000 civilians displaced within Blue Nile and 450,000 displaced in South Kordofan are suffering almost famine like conditions. With no other options, every day, scores are packing their lives on their backs and seeking safety across the border. Today, more than 204,000 refugees from the Two Areas live in bursting refugee camps. When malnourished refugees reach camps in South Sudan, they report walking for weeks and surviving on roots and leaves.
International aid agencies have gathered the necessary supplies, pre-positioned them at the border, and are ready to provide assistance to the almost one million Sudanese who have been displaced from their homes as a result of the crisis in the Two Areas. Time and time again, they have been denied access to the regions that are most in need. Last summer, the U.N., African Union, and Arab League’s hard fought tripartite agreement on humanitarian access to the areas expired without implementation. While both the government of Sudan and the rebels engage in realpolitik and finger pointing, the people of the Two Areas bear the consequences.
With unusual candor, John Ging, the operational director of the U.N.’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told the Security Council:
So far we have failed, […] we don’t need more process but more access, and we need it urgently and desperately.
Suggesting that an “injection of political will” could help “turn that failure into success,” Ging urged the U.N. Security Council to enforce the terms of UNSC resolution 2046, which obliges the government of Sudan and the rebel forces to facilitate access for humanitarian aid agencies.
Encouragingly, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, has taken a productive public stance on the gravity of the crisis. Rice’s comments unequivocally emphasized Sudan’s responsibility for non-compliance with humanitarian access mandate in resolution 2046, noting that the “preponderance” of blame for the situation “is and has been on the government in Khartoum.” She later tweeted that the Security Council must work to press for immediate and unfettered access to both areas: “Humanitarian crisis in the Two Areas is urgent and real.
#UNSC must work collectively to press for immediate, unfettered access.”
For months the Security Council has allowed the African Union’s roadmap for peace to guide its interventions on the crisis in the Sudans. Consequently, the A.U.’s upcoming Peace and Security Council meeting next week and its heads of state summit on January 27-28 have taken on a new importance for the international humanitarian community. The regional body must make a strong pronouncement on the urgency of the humanitarian issues in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. A clear statement from the A.U. will give the Security Council the political space to take serious steps towards securing the access envisioned under resolution 2046.
The international community bears a responsibility to protect civilians when their own governments are either unwilling or unable to do so. The people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile have withstood the Sudanese army’s punishing aerial bombardment and starvation tactics for far too long. It’s time for us to stand beside them.
The African Union will play a key role in setting the policy on this issue in the coming weeks. We need to encourage African Union Commission chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to continue her leadership on behalf of the innocent women and children of South Kordofan and Blue Nile who are surviving on roots and leaves.
Tweet: Madame Zuma @_AfricanUnion must make unfettered humanitarian access to #Sudan Two Areas a priority at summit cc @AU_PSD #rootsandleaves
Photo: A Nuba family living in a cave for protection from aerial bombardments by the Sudan Armed Forces (Enough / Jeff Trussell)