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UN humanitarian arm vows to stay in Darfur despite rising tide of attacks

UN humanitarian arm vows to stay in Darfur despite rising tide of attacks

Despite the recent alarming surge in the number of violent attacks against relief workers in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, United Nations humanitarian officials pledged today to continue their work across the area, even if they have to modify operations.

Acting Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström said Darfur is becoming one of the most dangerous areas in the world for aid workers, with many places and roads now either deemed “no go” or extremely insecure, making it difficult to reach those in need, especially in North and West Darfur.

“Every day there are more people who need our help, yet our colleagues are being threatened by all sides,” she said in a statement. “We need all parties to stop the fighting and attacks. We finally need an effective ceasefire, after almost four years of relentless violence.”

About 4 million people across Darfur, an impoverished region roughly the size of France, depend on 13,000 relief workers from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for basic aid and services, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The situation continues to deteriorate: more than 2 million people are internally displaced, with another 25,000 added to that total last month alone. Fighting continues between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy, and officials have warned that the conflict threatens to spill over into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Ms. Wahlström said she was particularly concerned that the attacks were rising, despite repeated and clear appeals from the UN and NGOs that they should be spared. The attacks include hijackings of humanitarian convoys.

Yesterday a civilian police officer with the AU peace monitoring mission in Darfur (known as AMIS) was killed at a camp in North Darfur for internally displaced persons (IDPs), and in mid-December armed groups launched a major attack against NGO compounds in the South Darfur town of Gereida.

OCHA said it was also appalled by last month’s incident in which Government police and local security officials arrested and assaulted 20 UN staff members and NGO workers taking part in a social gathering in the town of Nyala.

“We have been promised a full investigation into this terrible incident,” Ms. Wahlström said. “The Government has to ensure that the perpetrators will be held accountable, and send a strong message that it will not tolerate attacks against relief workers by its own officials or anyone else.”