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Following discussions between U.S. officials and the government of Sudan, humanitarian assistance programs are being restored there after the expulsion of some aid groups this spring. More needs to be done, and the United States hopes to continue working constructively with Khartoum to resolve what is happening in the troubled Darfur region, but other parts of the country as well.
The U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, General J. Scott Gration, announced recently that 3 new nongovernmental organizations were allowed into Sudan to begin providing food and medical aid to the millions of people displaced by fighting in Darfur and unrest in other areas. In March, 13 groups doing such work were expelled from Sudan on charges that they were cooperating with an international criminal court's investigation of President Omar al-Bashir. Those groups will continue to be barred from the country, but General Gration said the level of food and other services have largely been restored to the levels that existed before the expulsions. This capacity will grow as the Sudanese government says it will improve the conditions that the groups operate under, with staff work visas, technical agreements and other actions.
"We are pleased to see the words that they have given us have turned into deeds, and that's what we're holding them accountable to do," the general said.
The situation remains dire, however, and the U.S. is working as hard as it can to restore the humanitarian aid and help deal with the situation. The U.S. is reviewing its policy toward Sudan, where unrest in Darfur has killed as many as 300,000 people and displaced millions, and a political settlement between the North and South remains unresolved.
In the meantime, the need now is for a Darfur ceasefire and a political process so that displaced persons can have the right to return voluntarily to their homes.