WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States may intervene to provide aid in two Sudan border states where Khartoum refuses to permit aid agencies to operate despite a looming humanitarian crisis, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.
Activist groups have urged Washington to help in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, where Sudanese government troops have repeatedly clashed with rebels following the independence of South Sudan in July.
The fighting has already forced about 417,000 people to flee their homes, more than 80,000 of them to newly independent South Sudan, according to the United Nations.
A senior administration official said the United States was looking at a possible aid operation for the area, and was consulting with its international partners.
“The U.S. has made no decision on providing humanitarian aid in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan,” the senior official said.
“Africa must speak with one voice on this crisis and we hope this matter will be put on the agenda of the Africa Union summit taking place next week,” the official said.
Blue Nile and South Kordofan contain large groups who sided with the south in a decades-long civil war, and who say they continue to face persecution inside Sudan since South Sudan seceded.
Khartoum bars aid groups and foreign journalists from areas in the two states where fighting takes place, and Washington has repeatedly urged it to allow unrestricted and verifiable humanitarian access.
Attempting aid operations without Khartoum’s approval could further inflame tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, which are locked in disputes over everything from control of the border area of Abyei to dividing up oil revenues.
South Sudan became independent in July under a 2005 peace agreement with Khartoum to end decades of civil war that killed two million people.
Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations this week dismissed U.N. and U.S. concerns about a mounting humanitarian crisis in the border states, saying the situation there was “normal.”
Earlier this month the U.N. humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, said the United Nations had received alarming reports of malnutrition in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Food security analysts predict that the situation in the area will deteriorate sharply by March if aid flows to the region do not increase.