Sudan: abrupt transfer of displaced in Darfur sparks concern from UN agencies

2 July 2004

United Nations humanitarian agencies say they are concerned by the Sudanese Government's abrupt transfer of more than 5,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the war-torn Darfur region from one IDP camp to another without any consultation or advance warning.

Between Wednesday evening and Thursday lunchtime, about 1,000 families were transported by Sudanese authorities from a camp at Meshtel to a more established camp at Abu Shouk, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said today.

Yesterday afternoon, when Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his party of aides - who are visiting Darfur to see first-hand what has been described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis - arrived at Meshtel, the camp was empty save for a few mules.

Mr. Dujarric said the IDPs had told relief workers that they had been pressured to move quickly to Abu Shouk. Humanitarian agencies said that while this camp has better conditions for the IDPs, prior consultation would have allowed them to prepare its facilities and provisions to take account of the new arrivals.

In another development, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned that the continuing violence in Darfur is breeding a new generation of traumatized child survivors.

Many displaced children living in camps across Darfur or as refugees in neighbouring Chad have told humanitarian workers that they have seen their parents, siblings or neighbours murdered or raped, UNICEF said today.

Other children have drawn disturbing pictures of what has happened. In one case, an 11-year-old girl drew a picture of bleeding bodies on the ground next to an armed man sitting on a camel. The girl then pointed to the bodies and recited the names of her relatives.

UNICEF Director of Emergency Operations Dan Toole said at least 500,000 children have had to flee their villages because of brutal attacks by Government-allied Janjaweed militias.

"We're dealing with massive effects on the lives of children," he said. "This expulsion is creating a common memory for those who survive of mayhem, insecurity, terrible loss and the power of violence."

UNICEF has built dozens of support centres and classrooms across Darfur to help displaced children deal with the effects of war and resume their schooling. The agency hopes 60,000 children can use the centres and classrooms by September.

As the rainy season sets in, UN humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have stepped up their efforts to help the estimated 2 million people in Darfur - and more than 170,000 refugees in Chad - needing relief.

But, at a briefing for reporters today in Geneva, they said the international community is failing to donate enough funds to allow them to do their work.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said only 31 per cent - or about $78 million - of the $250 million needed by UN agencies to help people in Darfur has been received so far.

OCHA hopes to provide 1 million people by the end of this month with full food rations and to distribute another 12,000 tonnes of food to key locations during the rest of the rainy season.

It also plans to set up 24 feeding centres for malnourished children, ensure safe drinking water for 740,000 people and deploy at least 24 extra staff to monitor the treatment of human rights.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said more than 118,000 refugees have been relocated from the border between Chad and Sudan - where the Janjaweed have been making raids - to safer camps further inside Chad.

World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume said staff could not reach 34 of the 137 camps for IDP in Darfur because of continuing insecurity.

In May, two UN human rights reports found that the Janjaweed, bands of Arab fighters recruited or armed by the Sudanese Government as part of its fight against two rebel groups, have committed numerous human rights abuses against Darfur's black African population. Last week Mr. Annan described the militia attacks as "bordering on ethnic cleansing."