US food aid official begins mission to drought-stricken Sudan
A senior US government relief official on Sunday, July 15, began a week-long mission in Sudan to assess efforts to battle famine in parts of the country ravaged by drought and devastated by civil war.
Andrew Natsios, representing the US Agency for International Development (USAID), told reporters after arriving here overnight that his mission was "humanitarian," rather than political.
Natsios, USAID's Administrator and Special Coordinator for Sudan, is one of the highest US officials in years to visit Sudan, which is labeled by Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The United States is the largest aid donor to Sudan and has provided one billion dollars worth of assistance in the last decade, US officials said. In the latest US donation, Sudan has begun receiving around 40,000 tons of US food aid.
Natsios told reporters here that a ship carrying 23,000 tons of wheat docked three days ago at Port Sudan on the Red Sea and that the remainder would arrive over the next few days.
UN agencies are responsible for its distribution to government or rebel-held areas, he said, adding he would discuss with Sudanese government officials ways to guarantee delivery of the food.
Natsios was scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail and the international cooperation minister. Natsios was to travel in northern and rebel-held parts of southern Sudan, meeting aid workers and visiting refugee camps.
UN and other humanitarian groups appealed to international donors in May to provide more than $50 million "immediately" to avert famine and disease in the country.
An estimated 600,000 people were believed to be in dire need of food and water, while the child death rate was increasing and livestock were dying, they said.
Sudan's people have endured 18 years of civil war between the Sudan People's Liberation Army, the rebel force in the mainly animist and Christian south, and Arab and Muslim governments in Khartoum. ― (AFP, Khartoum)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)