The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today strongly protested the decision by the Government of the Sudan to deny access to the agency’s flights to 43 locations in southern Sudan, where some 1.7 million people are in dire need humanitarian assistance.”These flight bans can have a devastating impact on entire populations,” warned Judith Lewis, WFP’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa. “Extremely debilitated people will be virtually cut off from basic assistance such as food and health care.” According to the agency, most of the 43 locations to where flights have been denied are areas where the population is extremely vulnerable as a result of insecurity and drought.The search for alternative ways to provide aid will place a heavy financial burden on relief operations, WFP said. “Most agencies already struggle to find the necessary funds to maintain their humanitarian activities in southern Sudan,” Ms. Lewis said. “The resources required for alternative systems would be much better spent on humanitarian programmes.”Since the Government announced that it would not provide access to the 43 sites, WFP officials have met with the Sudanese authorities to press for a lifting of the restrictions. The agency reported that despite achieving limited progress, WFP would not be able to operate adequately without greater access.