The United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) which was supposed to start its humanitarian relief mission to the Nuba Mountains in September - after long delays in achieving clearance from Khartoum - has been suspended following the sad events which took place in New York and Washington on 11 September.

However, the UNDP managed to go to Karkar in SPLA-Nuba controlled area and delivered a Buffalo load of supplies although it stayed around the airstrip for only two hours. The UN is planning to have more deliveries of supplies in the near future if full access is given to all areas in the Nuba Mountains.

Access to the Nuba Mountains is still a major problem which UN Office of Representative in Khartoum is facing, as the Sudanese Government continues to insist that all supplies and personnel access to the Nuba SPLM-controlled areas should come from El-Obeid airport which is under Government control, while the SPLA maintains that areas under their control should be served from either Kenya or other areas under SPLM control in South Sudan. This really has become a dilemma for the UN-Humanitarian Office in Khartoum as well as in Geneva, as there have been a number of reports from independent sources that have signalled that there is an impeding humanitarian crisis in the SPLM-controlled areas of the Nuba Mountains. If the UN current funding allocation for the area remains unused by the end of November it will be used elsewhere.

As a result of fighting, which has been ongoing since December and an escalation of the bombing campaign since February, there has been considerable displacement with some people having to relocate several times within the space of a few months. Many people have been unable to access their farms, which has led to a severe food shortage in the area. With the coming hungry season coupled with a deteriorating security situation and the government armed forces poised to go on their annual summer offensive, the situation could soon mount into a severe crisis in the Nuba Mountains.

Such problems have led to the frustration of the head of the Office For The Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, Mr Ross Mountain, wholast May wrote a letter to the Members of the International Advisory Committee (IAC) on Sudan proposing to them to include the subject of access to the Nuba mountains on the agenda of their next meeting. This is the text of his letter:

"I would like to draw your attention to the matter of humanitarian access to the SPLM-controlled areas of the Nuba Mountains in the Sudan which poses a serious concern to the international humanitarian community. Enclosed for your information are copies of correspondence on access to the Nuba Mountains between the United Nations and the Government of Sudan (GoS). Also attached is a letter addressed to representatives of the permanent diplomatic missions of the donor countries in Khartoum on the same subject.

In spite of relentless efforts by the United nations, negotiations undertaken on this matter with the Government of Sudan and the SPLM have reached a stalemate. While the Government of Sudan insists that all the supplies and personnel access the Nuba SPLM-controlled areas via El-Obeid (an airport under GoS control), the SPLM maintains the areas under their control should be served from either Kenya (Lockichoggio airport) or other areas under SPLM control in South Southern Sudan. In the absence of an overall agreement , we were though able to secure the consensus of the SPLM to allow the United Nations and its NGO partners to access areas of the Nuba Mountains under their control via El-Obeid , in order to implement the national immunisation campaigns for Polio eradication and to deliver emergency supplies to the civilian populations. In 2000, five joint UN/INGO missions were conducted in SPLM areas for these purposes, all routed via El-Obeid. However, recently, the Government of Sudan has refused to allow the United Nations to carry the second and the thirds rounds of the 2001 national immunisation campaign for polio eradication in SPLM-controlled areas of the Nuba Mountains via El-Obeid hence the refusing to further hindering the negotiations efforts.

As you may note from the attached letters, the United Nations have repeatedly expressed concern on the situation to the Government of Sudan, also in light of the humanitarian crisis which is currently developing in the SPLM-controlled areas of the Nuba Mountains. Furthermore we have called on the diplomatic support of Member States represented in the Sudan in order to overcome the current impasse.

The agreement of both sides to allow the United Nations to access the SPLM-controlled areas of the Nuba Mountains via El-Obeid for assessment purposes in in 1999 was obtained through thepersonal intervention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Once again, we feel obliged to bring to his - and your - attention the latest developments on this matter

We are proposing to include the subject of access to the Nuba Mountains on the agenda of the next meeting of the International Advisory Committee (IAC), to take place during the second half of the year 2001. Other items for discussion will include, inter-alia, the outcome of going negotiations on the implementation of a visa regime for UN/OL workers in Southern Sudan as well as the strengthening of the UN co-ordination structure. Confirmation of the date and venue will be communicated to your attention in due course.

With best regards

Ross Mountain