A ‘step forward’ for a humanitarian plan in Sudan?

Internally displaced people in Sudan receive rations from the World Food Program. A tripartite team will be meeting with the Sudanese government to discuss a long-awaited plan to assess the humanitarian needs of people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Photo by: Tim McKulka / U.N. Photo / CC BY-NC-ND

A second meeting between a tripartite team — the United Nations, Arab League and African Union — and the government of Sudan is set to take place Wednesday (Sept. 12.), when a long-awaited plan to assess the humanitarian needs of people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states hopefully gains traction.

The meeting will be a “technical” one, where details of when and who will be part of the team that will be tasked to assess the humanitarian needs of people in the rebel-held areas in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile will be fleshed out. It follows the group’s first meeting on Sept. 4, a month after Khartoum agreed to let humanitarian aid reach people sandwiched in the fighting between the two states.

Enough Project, a nonprofit working to fight genocide and crimes against humanity, warned in August that discrepancies in the agreements the tripartite team made separately with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North and the government of Sudan might pose a problem.

True enough, nearly a month after the deadline the tripartite team set with SPLM-N, an assessment team has yet to be deployed to the conflict-torn states. The deal specified that an assessment team has to be sent out two weeks after Aug. 4; no time frame was set in the team’s separate agreement with Sudan.

Nonetheless, several humanitarian groups remain hopeful the meeting on Wednesday would see significant progress toward providing much-needed aid. At the very least, it will be a “step forward” for the humanitarian plan, World Food Program spokeswoman Amor Almagro told Devex. Both the Sudanese government and the tripartite team are expected to come up with a more detailed plan on how to reach all the areas that need to be assessed and how to deliver aid.

“That’s the reason why we are waiting for the meeting on Wednesday, because that will really determine the future course of action that we need to take,” Almagro said. The evaluation is crucial in determining the humanitarian needs of people in the two states. About half a million people in both states need food aid, according to the program’s initial estimates. This figure, however, is subject to change following the assessment.

Although the tripartite team did not set an assessment deadline with the Sudanese government, SPLM-N accused Khartoum of obstructing the plan and, in a statement, called for a rerouting of aid. Instead of distributing aid from Sudanese states, SPLM-N proposed coursing delivery through South Sudan and Ethiopia.

The rerouting, if it does happen, would break the terms stipulated in the agreement SPLM-N made with the tripartite team, which emphasizes the sovereignty of Sudan over the concerned areas during the whole humanitarian operation. Almagro, however, declined to comment on its possibility.

“For us, what is important, is we participate in this week’s meeting to really nail down the story plan for the assessment: for us to be able to carry out the assessment and eventual delivery of food assistance,” Almagro said, adding, “We abide by the principle of neutrality and impartiality, and our main goal is to get food to those who are in need.”

Meanwhile, Almagro said the U.N. food agency was able to partly resume operations in Kutum, North Darfur, after suspending work there in August. WFP was able to distribute two months’ worth of food rations to Kadugli in late August, following a lull in attacks.

But WFP has yet to fully resume operations in Kutum, where a curfew is currently in place. A spate of violence last week has prompted the governor of North Darfur to declare the region under a state of emergency.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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