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Catholic relief organisation sounds alarm on Sudan

About 1.7 million Sudanese are at risk of famine and disease as humanitarian access is denied to aid agencies in southern Sudan, Catholic Relief Services - the US affiliate of Caritas - told a Senate panel in Washington.

The Khartoum government, "at civil war with southern Sudanese seeking the right to cultural, religious and political freedom," bears the greatest responsibility for the lack of access, CRS reported on Thursday.

"If the current humanitarian crisis continues to deteriorate, we could see a situation as devastating as the famine of 1998 in which an estimated 70,000 people died," the CRS country representative for Sudan, Paul Townsend, told Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. "The situation in Sudan is urgent."

Townsend called on members of Congress to encourage that US policy in Sudan make humanitarian issues a clear priority in the ongoing negotiations with the Khartoum government.

"The United States and the United Nations must ensure unimpeded humanitarian access to all at-risk populations," he said.

CRS noted that the Khartoum government has ignored the humanitarian protections afforded in the emergency relief effort dubbed Operation Lifeline Sudan, established by the warring parties and the United Nations in the late 1980s.

Khartoum consistently restricts access to innocent southern Sudanese civilians in need by denying approval of relief flights and by obstructing the delivery of essential aid and services through other bureaucratic barriers, CRS reported.

CRS called for the establishment of an independent team to approve requests to access those in need. The agency also pressed for the immediate creation of a US-proposed humanitarian monitoring mission with full access to all areas of Sudan.

More than One Million Lives at Risk in Sudan (CRS media release)
Catholic Relief Services


15 Jul 2002