By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
SOUTH SUDAN (ANS) -- Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) works to provide lasting change through aid and advocacy for those who are, or who have been, suffering oppression or persecution, and who are largely neglected by the international media.
HART's CEO is Baroness Caroline Cox, who was created a Life Peer in 1982 and has been Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom since 1985.
Martin Christ, writing for http://hartdispatches.tumblr.com, a tumblr page dedicated to dispatches from the work of HART, says the Blue Nile region, on the southern tip of Sudan, has been badly affected by the fighting that first broke out along the border of Sudan and South Sudan in June 2011 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army - North (SPLA-N).
"The conflict has had catastrophic effects on the civilian population, forcing many to live in nearby forests or to retreat to refugee camps. In the forests, refugees survive by eating roots and leaves; and in the camps, they are still waiting for plastic sheeting and blankets - essential during the rainy season," says Christ.
"Constant attacks from government Antonov bombers and MiG jets, and long-range missiles bring severe injury and death," he says.
Christ says the Government of Sudan's refusal to allow aid agencies to enter the region makes it extremely dangerous for anyone to reach the refugees with vital supplies.
"Constant aerial attacks mean that none of the fields can be cultivated - farmers are too easily detected by drones and planes above the open fields. An estimated 75 percent of fields are unused, " he said.
"To make matters worse, the start of the rainy season is turning roads into mud. It is nearly impossible to transport supplies via one of the few tracks running into the region."
Christ explains that since fighting ensued last year, an estimated 194 people have died in conflict-related deaths and 378 have suffered severe injuries. Since the start of the rainy season, 240 people have already died of hunger and 120,000 have been displaced.
"Despite some international pressure, Khartoum has yet to allow much-needed humanitarian aid to enter the affected regions, " he says, adding: "Further steps such as prevention of arms transfers and targeted sanctions could help achieve this aim. For if the international community does not act, and act fast, (President) Omar al-Bashir will succeed in his self-proclaimed aim of destroying any dissenting voices in Sudan."
He concludes: "Too many times has the international community stood by as atrocities were committed - we have to act now to prevent this one from unfolding any further. We have to act now."
On its website, www.hart-uk.org the organization says: "We believe both advocacy and aid are vital to achieve long-term change for people suffering oppression. These people are often marginalized, may be trapped behind closed borders and tend to be unreached, un-helped and unheard.
"Advocacy has a fundamental role to play in bringing the evidence of oppression and human rights violations to the light of the international community, so that concerted action and targeted pressure can be facilitated in order to meet humanitarian needs."
To this end, HART regularly visits its partners overseas, campaigns on their behalf, and works closely with other members of the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and the Department for International Development (DFID), and with other governmental and non-governmental organizations in the UK and worldwide.
HART works closely in co-operation with its local partners who possess the requisite vision, knowledge, skills and commitment, to strive to find appropriate aid solutions that aim to relieve suffering, be sensitive to local, cultural values, and replicable and sustainable in the long term.
"Our local partners benefit from the dignity of choice of priorities, the authority of leadership in their own communities and the day-to-day management of projects, which are strengthened with HART resources, professional advice, training and support. HART is committed to channelling the maximum amount of funds possible to our partners abroad and streamlines its running costs by keeping no expatriate staff 'on the ground,'" the website says.
HART works, with local partners, in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Burma, India, Nigeria, Sudan, Timor Leste, Uganda and Egypt in the spheres of education, environment, health, human rights and more.