UN humanitarian chief to lead inspection mission into Darfur, Sudan, next week

13 April 2004

A senior United Nations relief official will head to the troubled Darfur region of western Sudan next week to assess the humanitarian situation there, weeks after warning that a coordinated, “scorched-earth” campaign of ethnic cleansing was taking place against the local black African population.

A UN spokesperson told reporters today that Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will visit Greater Darfur's three regions - northern, western and southern - to examine issues of protection, possible gaps in humanitarian assistance and ways to increase relief and funding.

UN agencies estimate that at least 700,000 people have become internally displaced within Darfur since fighting erupted there early last year between the Sudanese Government, allied militias and rebel groups. Another 110,000 refugees have fled into neighbouring Chad.

Early this month, after briefing the Security Council, Mr. Egeland told the press that the Janjaweed, identified by reports as Arab militia and allied to Khartoum, was mainly responsible for the forced depopulation of whole areas of Darfur. He said UN staff had received credible and frequent reports of murders, rapes and acts of looting, and the victims were largely the Fur, Zaghawas and Massalit ethnic communities.

On Friday the UN announced it was seeking $115 million in donations from the international community to help the people of Darfur cope with the effects of the civil conflict, a five-fold increase from a September appeal.

Next week's humanitarian mission has been arranged at the request of the Sudanese Government, spokesperson Marie Okabe said, and follows last week's signing by Khartoum and the rebel groups of a ceasefire in Darfur. The mission will include representatives from several UN humanitarian agencies, as well as members of the Sudanese Government.

A separate fact-finding mission, organized the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), remains in the Sudanese-Chadian border area interviewing refugees. That mission is still waiting for authorization to travel into Darfur.