November 8, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Sudan has urged the government to extend a cessation of hostilities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states as result of the failure to reach an agreement with the SPLM-N rebels allowing the start of polio vaccination campaign there.
The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) announced an unilateral cessation of hostilities from 1 to 12 November in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan following a series of discussions with the representatives of the tripartite initiative in Sudan.
The SPLM-N, however, rejected the unilateral declaration and demanded a negotiated agreement with the Sudanese government. The rebel group further pointed out that the discussions should be brokered by the AUHIP team headed by Thabo Mbeki and must include the transport of vaccines to the rebel areas.
“The Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Mr. Ali Al-Za’tari, urged the Government of Sudan to consider extending the period for the cessation of hostilities, due to the delays in starting the vaccination campaign”, said the weekly bulletin of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Khartoum.
The African mediation invited the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N to meet in Addis Ababa on 4-5 November to negotiate the technical measures to allow the launch of the anti-polio campaign. But the Sudanese delegation did not travel saying no invitation was received from the panel.
In a related development, two UN agencies, UNICEF and WFP, met in Juba South Sudan with the representative of the SPLM-N humanitarian arm in the Blue Nile state, the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (SRRA).
The meeting discussed ways to start the campaign in the rebel controlled areas of Blue Nile state but the local humanitarian official of the group explained it was not possible for them to guarantee full access to these positions.
The SRRA told the UN agencies that “people in SPLM-N areas are currently harvesting their crops”, OCHA reported.
He further indicated that the lack of trained staff and functioning vehicles would further complicate operations on the ground.
The vaccination campaign in the whole Blue Nile targets some 186.000 children under the age of five. There are some 7,000 children in the SPLM-N controlled areas in the south-eastern state.