UN makes first aid drop in Sudan's rebel-held areas in over a decade

Humanitarian agencies gained access to five districts in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions

A displaced Sudanese woman walks carrying a bucket of water at a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) near Kadugli, the capital of Sudan's South Kordofan state, during a United Nations humanitarian visit on May 13, 2018. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

The UN said on Sunday that its humanitarian agencies had gained access to five rebel-held areas in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions for the first time in a decade.

It said the World Food Programme delivered 100 tonnes of nutritious biscuits for 25,000 pupils.

“A lack of food for students is one of the main challenges in maintaining school enrolment in these isolated areas,” the world body said.

The five areas are controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North which is engaged in peace talks with the government in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

“Communities in these areas have been struggling and surviving on little or nothing for a decade,” said the UN statement. “Expanding humanitarian access to SPLM-N-controlled enclaves is crucial to providing urgent assistance to an estimated 800,000 people in these areas, who desperately need relief following years of isolation.”

Sudan has been torn apart by a seemingly endless series of civil wars since independence in 1956. Those conflicts left millions dead or displaced and, together with corruption and incompetence, devastated the economy.

The oil-rich region of South Sudan, with a mainly Christian or animist population, seceded from the Muslim-majority north in 2011 after more than two decades of civil war.

Since the military's toppling in 2019 of dictator Omar Al Bashir – whose 29 years in power saw the country plunge into several conflicts – Khartoum's new rulers have made negotiating peace deals with rebel groups fighting government forces in the west and south of the country a top priority.

The SPLM-N is one of the two largest rebel groups in the country.