UNHCR seeks access to tens of thousands of displaced Sudanese
GENEVA, June 14 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency called Tuesday on local and central authorities to allow air and road access for humanitarian agencies trying to help thousands of forcibly displaced people in the capital of Sudan's Southern Kordofan border state.
"For nearly one week now, humanitarian flights have been denied authorization to land in Kadugli despite our efforts to secure such an agreement," UNHCR's chief spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told journalists in Geneva. "Land access is also being hampered by armed militiamen who have set up roadblocks, from which we are hearing reports of harassment of people on the move," she added.
Fleming said the insecurity was severely constraining UNHCR's operations and the refugee agency was unable to reach a warehouse just five kilometres from the UN peace-keeping mission's base in the city. The warehouse contains supplies to assist 10,000 displaced people.
UNHCR knows of an estimated 41,000 people around Kadugli and elsewhere in Southern Kordofan who have been displaced by recent fighting between forces of North Sudan and South Sudan, which is due to become independent next month. The oil-rich Kordofan area is part of North Sudan.
Fleming said the refugee agency was trying to get fuller access to these people. "But we fear that many more have been forced to flee their homes and are continuing to do so as fighting continues. Most are women and children," she added.
UNHCR is coordinating humanitarian assistance in and around Kadugli where, despite the hostile environment, aid agencies have managed to deliver food and other relief material to some 6,000 internally displaced people. "This is far below the number we would be able to reach if we had secure access," the UNHCR spokesperson said.
Heavy fighting has been going on in and around Kadugli since last week and air strikes can still be heard in the vicinity. The civilian casualties include 10 confirmed deaths.