Sudanese report UN aid supplies being stolen by armed militias in Darfur

27 February 2004

Internally displaced people in western Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region are reporting that aid given to them by United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is being stolen by armed militia.

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) is considering feeding recipients directly instead of giving them rations that could be stolen, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

The inhabitants of one Darfur village are so fearful of militia attacks that they have asked UN staff not to distribute aid to them in case they become a target.

The internally displaced people - OCHA estimates there are 700,000 across the region - say the militias continue to attack their villages, burning homes, raping and kidnapping people and carrying out extortions.

Darfur has been torn by violence since last March, when fighting erupted between the Sudanese Government, militias and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA). An estimated 110,000 refugees have crossed the border into Chad to escape the conflict.

UN agencies are stepping up their efforts to provide relief to the residents of Darfur, who had been largely cut off from humanitarian support for several months. But OCHA said humanitarian workers could still only reach about a quarter of the region's population.

A 13-member rapid response team has been sent to Darfur's three provincial capitals, Nyala, El Fasher and Geneina, to assess humanitarian needs and organize operations. UN agencies are preparing food and other supplies for 250,000 people, as well as a meningitis immunization campaign for 60,000 children.