Worsening situation in West Darfur jeopardizes aid efforts – UN report

Worsening situation in West Darfur jeopardizes aid efforts – UN report

UNAMID Forces in North Darfur
The security situation in West Darfur has deteriorated so sharply in the past two months that the United Nations’ efforts to bring humanitarian relief to those in need is being severely undermined, a new UN report says, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and warning that the region needs many more peacekeepers.

The latest report of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping mission to Darfur (UNAMID) says the “slow pace” of deployment is making it difficult for the forces that are in place to provide “even a modest level of protection to civilians.”

Just over 9,000 troops and police officers have been deployed so far, even though UNAMID is supposed to have more than 26,000 uniformed personnel in Darfur when it reaches full capacity. Less than a quarter of the mission’s authorized number of civilian staff have also been deployed.

“The mission will not be in a position to effectively fulfil its mandate or meet the tremendous expectations of Darfur’s civilians with the meagre human and material resources currently in the mission area,” Mr. Ban writes.

“We need to urgently demonstrate to the conflict-affected population of Darfur that UNAMID will bring a material improvement to their daily lives, or risk losing their confidence at this critical juncture in the life of the mission.”

The Secretary-General calls for all troop and police contributors to UNAMID to expedite the deployment of any units or assets they have pledged, and he appeals to Member States to provide those units that are still outstanding – such as key military helicopters – to ensure the mission is at full operating capability.

A month after the transfer of authority from the previous AU peace force (known as AMIS), UNAMID still lacks one heavy and one medium ground transport unit, three military utility aviation units (18 helicopters in total) and additional attack helicopters.

In the absence of pledges from Member States, one option being explored is the transfer of aviation assets from other UN peacekeeping missions.

In addition, the report notes that the speed of the deployment of UNAMID depends on resolving any remaining issues with the Sudanese Government about its composition, and stresses the need to “ensure the removal of impediments” to the force’s operation.

Mr. Ban stresses the need for a cessation of hostilities in the conflict in Darfur, which has pitted rebels against Government forces and allied militias since 2003. More than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2.2 million others forced to flee their homes.

He says such an agreement must also include “effective mechanisms for monitoring compliance and violations,” and adds that all sides should cooperate with the UN and AU Special Envoys to convene fully-fledged peace negotiations as soon as possible.

Condemning cross-border attacks, the Secretary-General urges both Sudan and neighbouring Chad to respect each other’s territorial sovereignty and to implement existing non-aggression accords.

The most recent fighting in West Darfur state has led 10,000 Sudanese or more to flee across the volatile border into eastern Chad, but the security situation is so poor that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had to withdraw its staff to a safer area earlier this week.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is delivering medical supplies, blankets, jerry cans and plastic sheeting to those in need in West Darfur, according to a statement released by the agency. It is also treating and restoring water supplies in those towns and villages attacked by militiamen or hit by aerial bombing.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said the recent upsurge in fighting was only adding to the hardships and dangers faced by vulnerable children and women in the region.

“Efforts to provide urgent assistance to children and women in dire need are hampered by the violence, and further displacement of civilian populations puts even greater pressure on camps that are already overcrowded,” she said, calling for aid workers to have unrestricted access to those in need.