by Peter Stanford THE much publicised "Operation Rainbow" finally got off the ground in Sudan last week in an attempt to get food and medicines through to an estimated two million starving people in the south of the civil war-torn country.
Operation Rambo, as it is known locally, is to be coordinated by the United Nations with monies from foreign governments. As a first plane took off after a month's delay — caused by fears of a repeat of the shooting down of a relief aircraft by the rebel Sudan! People's Liberation Army — other channels were being explored by the groups working in Sudan, to get supplies to the needy.
The "Rainbow" plane flew to Isiro in the north east of neighbouring Zaire. Supplies were then transferred to lorries for a 300 mile trek back to Juba, at the centre of the droughtstricken and rebel-controlled area. This roundabout route was made necessary by the unwillingness of insurers to cover the plane flying to Juba after the previous incident, which resulted in 60 deaths.
SPLA spokesmen have accused the Khartoum government of using relief flights for military purposes, and all attempts at bringing the two sides together so far, most recently by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, have failed. Mgr Hilarion Capueci, Catholic Vicar of Jerusalem, was expected to arrive in the Sudanese capital this week in another attempt to restart dialogue. Reports said that both Prime Minister Sadek al-Madhi and SPLA leader John Garang, whose forces are predominantly Catholic, had agreed to see Mgr Capucci, who was himself imprisoned in Israel for three years in the 1970s for alleged gun running.
"Operation Rainbow" is, however, just one of many attempts to help the starving peoples of the South. The Sudanese government this week organised a flight to Juba, while charities and non-governmental organisations, in co-operation with the churches, have been exploring other ways of breaking the rebel blockade of the south.
Amongst the options looked into by Sudan Aid, a partner of Cafod, and other groups have been river transport, via the Nile, by road, or other overland routes.
• Mother Teresa of Calcutta survived unscathed from a plane crash in Tanzania last week. The 76-year-old Nobel Prize winning nun was taking off from a remote airstrip when her Cessna light aircraft failed to get airborne and ploughed into assembled crowds, killing two children aged 8 and twelve.