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Wednesday, April 29, 1998 Published at 04:34 GMT 05:34 UK

World: Africa

Sudan 'putting its people in peril'

Britain has accused the Sudanese government of risking hundreds of thousands of lives by delaying emergency food supplies to starving masses.

British International Development Secretary, Clare Short, has called the blockade a "monstrous evil".

She urged the international community to put pressure on Khartoum to reach agreement with rebel forces in the south so urgent aid can be delivered.

Ms Short said by their current actions, neither side really wants peace in the civil war-struck country.

Meanwhile, charity workers in Britain have been holding emergency meetings to decide how to tackle the growing crisis in Sudan.

The BBC's Diplomatic Correspondent James Robbins on the famine created by political intollerance
A telephone hotline for donations is being set up to try to help some of the 700,000 people facing famine in the south of the country because of crop failure and civil war.

The Sudanese Government, which has curbed aid operations in rebel-held areas, allowed a second UN transport plane to airlift food to the region on Monday.

[ image: Famine fears grow]
Famine fears grow
The second aircraft makes it possible to double or triple the airlift of food, according to the UN World Food Programme.

But even with the second plane, aid agencies say they are able to deliver only a quarter of food needed.

The Director of the aid agency Oxfam, David Bryer, said: "Most of the areas where people are most vulnerable are very remote and usually the only way in is by air.

"That needs agreement from the government and the warring parties for planes to land."

BBC correspondent Emma Simpson on the fear of another African famine
Clare Short added: "This is not a problem of enough resources. The government of Sudan is ... deliberately inflicting this starvation on these people for its own ends.

Clare Short:: "political pressure needed."
"Aid alone will not bring an end to the crisis. A political solution is needed. We will do everything we can to help the people of Sudan."

The BBC East Africa correspondent, who has been in the worst affected area of Bahr el-Ghazal, says the concession from the government may have come too late to stave off a terrible catastrophe.

Alarming reports

UN aid organisations said they were receiving alarming reports from around the region and requests for help from places that have never needed food aid.

[ image: This baby's mother was reported to have died of starvation]
This baby's mother was reported to have died of starvation
A fortnight ago one feeding centre in the region was treating 300 extremely malnourished children a week.

The number has now more than trebled.

"Between 10,000 and 50,000 people are in immediate danger of dying from starvation if the aid program is not increased," said Els Matthieu, of Doctors Without Borders, an international medical aid group.

Another, relief agency, Save the Children, said the situation could develop into a famine if nothing is done.

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