UN relief chief concerned about possible departure of aid official from Sudan

UN relief chief concerned about possible departure of aid official from Sudan

John Holmes
The United Nations humanitarian arm voiced serious concern today at reports that the Sudanese Government has ordered the Country Director of CARE, a large non-governmental organization (NGO), to leave the country within 72 hours.

Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said in a statement that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is in touch with all sides to try to resolve “any misunderstandings or miscommunication” about the activities of NGO workers in Sudan, especially the case of CARE’s John Barker.

There are currently about 12,300 aid workers in the war-torn western Sudanese region of Darfur, including almost 900 international staff. They provide assistance to an estimated 4.2 million people, including 2.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), suffering since 2003 from the deadly conflict between rebel groups, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias.

Mr. Holmes, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said CARE has operated in Sudan for 27 years and has provided food, health care and other relief items to some four million people in the last three years alone.

“Given that CARE is a significant provider of humanitarian assistance to a large number of people in Sudan, the ambiguity of Mr. Barker’s current status is all the more distressing,” he said.

In May, the UN and Khartoum signed a joint communiqué to improve the administration of the humanitarian effort in Sudan, including by helping to secure visas and work permits for aid workers and by making it easier for relief goods to clear customs.

“We hope to build on the positive steps undertaken in recent months to advance the spirit of the Joint Communiqué,” Mr. Holmes said. “However, much more needs to be done in letter as well as spirit to ensure the Communiqué is implemented fully to the benefit of all civilians throughout Sudan.”