Security must improve before displaced in Darfur can return home – UN aid chief

30 November 2007
John Holmes

Darfur’s hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) will only return to their home villages and areas once security conditions improve and basic services are operating, the top United Nations humanitarian official said today after visiting one of the war-wracked Sudanese region’s biggest IDP camps.

Darfur’s hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) will only return to their home villages and areas once security conditions improve and basic services are operating, the top United Nations humanitarian official said today after visiting one of the war-wracked Sudanese region’s biggest IDP camps.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes met with IDP representatives at South Darfur state’s Ed Daein camp, which is currently home to an estimated 50,000 people.

“Clearly, after living in camps – in some cases for over three years – they are frustrated,” he said. “While they expressed a strong desire to return to their home areas, all the people I spoke with were unequivocal that they would only be able to do so when security conditions were right and services were in place.”

In total, at least 2.2 million Darfurians are either internally displaced or live as refugees in neighbouring countries because of fighting between rebels, Government forces, allied militia and tribal groups since 2003. More than 200,000 others have been killed.

Mr. Holmes also met today with aid workers to discuss the continuing challenges they face in trying to bring relief in Darfur, where car hijackings, assaults and harassment have become increasingly common.

“Many organizations also expressed their frustration at bureaucratic impediments which continue to hamper an effective and efficient response,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a media statement.

A combination of poor rainfall, infestations and birds mean there could be a poor harvest this season, and UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are warning about a serious food gap emerging, possibly as early as January next year.

While in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, the Emergency Relief Coordinator held a short meeting with the Wali, or provincial governor, to discuss mutual concerns about the situation.

Tomorrow Mr. Holmes is scheduled to travel to El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur and the home of the planned hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID), for talks with UN staff, partner organizations and local authorities.

 

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