SUDAN WATCH: Sudan blocks aid flights to Muhajiriya, Sheria and Labado in south Darfur

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sudan blocks aid flights to Muhajiriya, Sheria and Labado in south Darfur

February 12, 2009 Reuters report by Andrew Heavens, Khartoum:
Sudan blocks aid flights to Darfur battle zones-UN

Sudanese authorities have prevented aid agencies from getting food and water to more than 100,000 people in three areas in Darfur, U.N. officials said on Thursday.

The U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator Ameerah Haq called for immediate access to Muhajiriya, Sheria and Labado in south Darfur, where civilians have been caught in the middle of recent clashes between rebels and Sudanese forces. [...]

"We are very concerned about the state and condition of civilians in these areas," said Haq in the statement.

"Unless access is immediately granted, the situation for ... civilians could deteriorate rapidly."

No one from the Sudanese authorities was immediately available for comment.

Aid agencies had tried to get into the areas four times since the weekend but had failed to get clearance for humanitarian flights, said the statement from the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

It did not say who had failed to clear the flights or what had caused the problem.

But a U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the requests had been held up by Sudan's national security service and the government's Humanitarian Aid Commission despite repeated requests. The commission was not immediately available for comment.

TALKS WITH REBELS

Fighters from Darfur's rebel Justice and Equality Movement seized the key south Darfur town of Muhajiriya in mid January, sparking some of the worst violence Darfur has seen in a year, said analysts.

Fighting and government bombardments around the town forced thousands of civilians to flee, said the U.N.

Over the next three weeks fighting spread to Sheria, Labado and other surrounding areas, as JEM and government forces manoeuvred. Government forces now say they control the whole area after re-taking Muhajiriya.

U.N and other aid groups were waiting in the nearby capital of south Darfur Nyala, with food, water, shelter materials and medical care, said the statement.

Sudan's government has promised to cooperate with U.N. and other agencies who are running the world's largest humanitarian operation in Darfur. But some organisations have complained of harassment from government officials in south Darfur. [...] (Editing by Jon Boyle)

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