WFP starts first major relief operations in Sudan's Nuba Mountains

Nov 14 (AFP)

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) on Wednesday launched the first major relief operation in decades in Sudan's Nuba Mountains to feed a total of 158,000 people displaced by the war, a WFP statement said here.

The statement said that 100 tonnes of food air-dropped on Wednesday was part of a planned 2,000 tonnes to be delivered in the coming weeks.

An agreement was reached last week, after years of UN negotiations, recently facilitated by the US government, the government of Sudan and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), for a four-week break in fighting to allow humanitarian assistance to reach poor and war-battered Nuba populations.

"This relief operation is a fantastic breakthrough after such long and difficult negotiations.

"It is a great achievement for all parties to be finally able to help thousands of desperately needy people in the Nuba Mountains," WFP's country director for Sudan Masood Hyder said.

On Sunday, WFP sent a 14-member mission to four locations in the Nuba -- Kauda, Karkar, Julud and Saraf Jamus -- to prepare for the airdrops and to distribute the food on the ground.

Recent intensification of fighting in Nuba between Sudanese government troops and SPLM/A rebels, has left more than 158,000 people displaced or destitute, with some 65,000 losing everything, the statement said.

It said the combination of drought and insecurity has also reduced food production by almost 60 percent, pushing another 93,000 people into extreme poverty.

Humanitarian groups estimate that up to 1.5 million people have been killed another four million others displaced in the 18 years of fighting between the SPLA and Khartoum.