President Barack Obama said on Monday that Sudan faces an immediate crisis over the government’s decision to expel some aid groups from Darfur as he dispatched a special U.S. envoy to the war-ravaged African nation.

Obama spoke during a picture-taking session at the White House with envoy Scott Gration, a retired Air Force general who departs on Tuesday for Khartoum, southern Sudan and Darfur.

Gration will communicate to Sudan that “we have an immediate crisis prompted by the Khartoum government’s expulsion of non-governmental organizations that are providing aid to displaced persons inside of Sudan,” Obama said.

Sudan expelled 13 aid groups after the International Criminal Court charged President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on March 4 with war crimes in Darfur, where 4.7 million people rely on foreign assistance for food, shelter and protection from fighting between rebels and government-backed forces.

“We have to figure out a mechanism to get those NGOs back in place, to reverse that decision, or to find some mechanism whereby we avert an enormous humanitarian crisis,” Obama said.


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