Sudan’s Aid Block Risks ‘Full-Scale Famine,’ Rice of U.S. Says

The U.S. today warned that Sudan’s oil-rich Southern Kordofan is on the verge of a “full-scale famine” unless the government in Khartoum stops blocking aid.

“This conflict has affected more than 500,000 people, and if there is not a substantial new inflow of aid by March” the situation in Southern Kordofan will be “one step short of full-scale famine,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters in New York.

The government has “deliberately denied access” to international aid and UN workers in the conflict areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, which are the most affected by food shortages, Rice said. Her concerns were spelled out in a Jan. 16 letter to the president of the UN Security Council, South Africa’s Baso Sangqu.

Rice spoke after the UN’s chief relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, gave the 15-member body a report today on the region’s worsening humanitarian crisis.

Fighting in border states has intensified since South Sudan seceded on July 9, assuming control of the former state’s oil production of 490,000 barrels a day. President Umar al-Bashir’s government is battling members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North. The group, which was part of South Sudan’s ruling party until the south’s independence, is banned by Sudan’s government.

The refugee crisis adds to challenges faced by South Sudan, which is struggling to accommodate about 800,000 returnees, refugees and internally displaced people, according to the UN’s high commissioner for refugees, Antonio Guterres.

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