FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON – A coalition of human rights groups sent a letter today to Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, calling on the U.S. government to take a leading role in planning a cross-border aid operation into Sudan to ensure delivery of much needed food and medicine to vulnerable populations in the war-torn South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.
The groups, which include the Enough Project, American Jewish World Service, United to End Genocide, Jewish World Watch, Investors Against Genocide, Stop Genocide Now, and Act For Sudan, said the U.S. should continue diplomatic efforts to open aid access to the region while at the same time consider delivering aid to the region without Khartoum’s permission.
“If donor governments do not act, Sudanese people will die of malnutrition and disease,” said John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project. “The regime in Khartoum continues to use starvation as a weapon with no international consequence. The U.S. should lead in countering these abhorrent war tactics by breaking the blockade, demanding full access throughout Sudan, and holding accountable officials who continue to starve people as a means of holding onto power.”
Khartoum, in its war with SPLM-N rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, has attacked civilians, indiscriminately bombed populations, and used starvation as a weapon. The result has been a deterioration in the humanitarian situation which could become a famine in the coming months. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network warns that conditions in the two states are anticipated to reach emergency levels by March. This is one level short of famine.
“An unnatural disaster is now threatening to claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Sudan through starvation and disease,” said Tom Andrews, President of United to End Genocide. “Once again, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the same man wanted for genocide in Darfur, is responsible. We cannot sit idly by as people starve to death from this Bashir-made catastrophe.”
The U.S. has a long history of providing cross-border aid without Khartoum’s permission. From the mid-1980s, a number of NGOs delivered U.S. assistance to areas throughout South Sudan and border areas in the North where the Sudanese regime attempted to obstruct humanitarian access. These efforts saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Similar cross-border operations in the 1980s supported by the U.S. government saved countless Ethiopian lives when the regime in Addis Ababa blocked aid access.
“Right now, we must be doing everything we can so that food can reach those on the brink of famine,” said Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service.
The coalition of human rights organizations said they understand the concerns of some aid organizations that Khartoum will respond by denying access to Darfur, where the situation is deteriorating. The U.S. government should take into account the need for continued humanitarian access in Darfur in devising a comprehensive plan to ensure the timely delivery of humanitarian aid to civilian populations in the areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the groups said. Consequently, measures should be taken to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access and protection of humanitarian workers is also prioritized in Darfur and all over Sudan.