Attacks on aid workers in Darfur threatening relief efforts, warns UN official

Attacks on aid workers in Darfur threatening relief efforts, warns UN official

The United Nations humanitarian chief warned today that increasing attacks on aid workers in Darfur are jeopardizing relief efforts, and called for an immediate end to violence in the strife-torn region of Sudan.

“Every day, more people need our help, yet humanitarian colleagues are under increasing threat from all sides,” said John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Despite repeated appeals from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Darfur, continuing violence and targeting of civilians have displaced nearly 160,000 people so far this year, pushing the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to 2.1 million, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The total number of civilians requiring relief assistance has reached 4.2 million, or nearly two-thirds of the entire Darfur population.

At the same time, OCHA reports that attacks against the relief community have increased by 150 per cent in the past year, threatening the lifeline to this ever-increasing number of displaced and conflict-affected people.

In June, one out of every six convoys that left provincial capitals in Darfur was hijacked or ambushed. Since January, some 64 vehicles used by agencies have been hijacked, with 132 staff temporarily detained, often at gunpoint. Such lawlessness has forced relief organizations to suspend programming, temporarily depriving over one million beneficiaries of life-saving assistance, OCHA said.

There are some 13,000 relief workers in Darfur trying to reach a total of four million people. As a result of insecurity on the ground, aid workers are forced to rely on expensive helicopter transport to keep operations going in many areas.

“Obviously, we will not give up – the needs are too great. We will continue to adapt operations to ensure that the most vulnerable in Darfur receive at least some relief,” Mr. Holmes said.

“But what we most need is an effective ceasefire. This is possible – the rebel groups and the Government could and should choose now to stop the violence.”