Nuba assessments "progressing well"

9 January, 2002 (IRIN)

A joint humanitarian assessment mission to the Nuba Mountains region of Southern Kordofan State, south-central Sudan, by the Sudanese government's Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other relief organisations was on Wednesday reported to be going "very well" and nearing a finish.

A complementary multi-agency and multi-sectoral assessment to rebel-held areas of the Nuba Mountains, coordinated by the United Nations, also got under way as planned on Tuesday, according to aid workers.

The assessment of government-held areas, which started on 2 January, was going ahead as planned without any inordinate difficulties reported, and was expected to finish up, perhaps by the weekend, humanitarian sources told IRIN.

Five technical teams started their missions in Kaduqli, Dilling, Hayban, Rashad, Abu-Jebaiha (Abu Jubayhah) and Talodi (Talawdi) - all in government-held areas in the Nuba Mountains region.

The parties were also involved in assessing humanitarian needs in the Lagawa (Al-Lagowa) area, on the border of Western and Southern Kordofan, west of the Nubas.

The assessment mission is addressing agriculture, animal resources, health, education, water, roads and food needs, prior to attending to the preparation of rehabilitation and development plans for the areas involved.

After a visit to Sudan by the US peace envoy, John Danforth, in November, the government of Sudan and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) agreed on an internationally monitored cease-fire to cover the Nuba Mountains, and to the immediate dispatch of a relief and rehabilitation assessment mission to the region.

The continuing assessments in government- and rebel-held areas of the Nubas are in fulfilment of that agreement, after a delay associated with planning and logistical requirements, as well as the intervening Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and the Christmas festival, according to humanitarian sources.

Danforth - who is leading a US effort to promote humanitarian access and development in Sudan as an end in themselves and as a tool for renewed peace efforts - is due to return to Sudan this month to gauge progress on the government's and the SPLM/A's commitment to the Nuba agreement and other proposals.

The Nuba assessments also coincide with an ongoing meeting of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Khartoum, which is due to address peace and humanitarian issues in Sudan.

They also coincide with high-level political visits by the British and Norwegian development and cooperation ministers, Clare Short and Hilde Johnson.

It is hoped that the government, UN and other actors will agree on a joint report and proposals for an integrated humanitarian assistance package for both government- and rebel-held areas by 21 January.