4 aid groups expelled from east Sudan

Khartoum - Sudan has expelled four foreign aid groups working in the country's east, a government source told AFP on Friday, in the latest restriction against foreign humanitarian agencies.

"HAC decided to expel four international NGOs working in eastern Sudan because they failed in their planned projects," said the source at the Humanitarian Affairs Commission, asking not to be named.

"Also, there is a weakness in these international NGOs," the source added without elaborating.

He identified the groups as Save the Children Sweden, GOAL of Ireland, a Japanese humanitarian group and another Irish organisation.

"There's been no explanation for this," said a diplomatic source, who clarified that the government is only seeking to cancel the aid groups' activities in eastern Sudan, not in the rest of the country.

The source, asking for anonymity, confirmed that GOAL and Save the Children Sweden were among those affected.

"They take it as a sign of this general difficult situation for NGOs that we've seen" recently, he said.

A foreign aid source said his group is among several notified that the government wishes them to stop work in the country's east.

"That is correct. We received a letter" on Thursday," he said.

Another diplomatic source identified the Japanese group as AAR, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan.

No clear reason

"HAC rejected AAR's request to start working in the east," the source said. "It's quite different from being expelled."

Last week, the MSF Spain humanitarian group (Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders) said Sudan's government has blocked shipments of medicines to a violence-plagued part of the Darfur region, leaving more than 100 000 people without vital health care.

No drugs have been able to reach the Jebel Si area since September, leading MSF to suspend operations at its local hospital in Kaguro, Olivier Fauritte, head of MSF Spain in Sudan, told AFP.

"The government of Sudan did not give us any clear reason for not allowing the cargo to reach Jebel Si project," he said, adding that MSF was the only medical service provider in that area.

HAC proposed that the drugs and equipment be delivered to other hospitals in the region but MSF insisted they go to Kaguro, "near to the rebel-held areas", the official SUNA news agency reported.

Sudan has cited security concerns for its policy of severely controlling access for foreign relief agencies elsewhere in the country, to Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, where it has been battling insurgencies for the past year.

The UN and others have warned for months that aid agencies need access throughout the Blue Nile and South Kordofan war zone - including to rebel-held regions - to properly assess people's needs and distribute assistance to prevent a worse humanitarian situation.

In 2009, Sudan expelled 13 major international humanitarian organisations from the Darfur region.

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