President Barack Obama authorized as much as $26 million to help provide humanitarian assistance to 140,000 refugees who have fled parts of Sudan’s southern states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
The U.S. money will come from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund and will support the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, according to an e-mailed statement from National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor.
The aid is in response “to the unexpected and urgent needs resulting from the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states of Sudan,” Vietor said.
Fighting between Sudanese government forces and the rebels has intensified in the two border states since South Sudan seceded in July, assuming control of three-quarters of the former unified nation’s oil production of 490,000 barrels a day.
The U.S. is “gravely concerned” about the situation in the two states and continues to call upon Sudan and South Sudan to reach a “negotiated settlement to the outstanding issues between them,” Vietor said.
“In particular, the United States urges Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit to proceed with plans to meet in a summit to sign agreements on nationality and border issues, and to reach an agreement on oil,” he said.
Last week’s border clashes prompted expressions of concern from the United Nations Security Council, the U.S., the European Union and the African Union.
Yesterday Obama spoke with Salva Kiir, who urged him to pressure Sudan to cease border attacks and return to peace talks, Deputy Information Minister Atem Yaak Atem said.
Most refugees who fled Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile have migrated to neighboring South Sudan, as well as to Ethiopia, Catherine Wiesner, deputy assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, said on a conference call with reporters.
“With these numbers, obviously relief agencies are in a race against time,” said Wiesner, who visited South Sudan last week.