Global perspective Human stories

At five-year mark, Darfur crisis is only worsening – UN aid chief

At five-year mark, Darfur crisis is only worsening – UN aid chief

John Holmes
Five years after fighting first erupted in Darfur between Sudanese Government forces and rebel groups, the world has still not found a durable solution to the suffering of millions of people in the region, the United Nations humanitarian chief told the Security Council today, warning the situation will only deteriorate unless urgent measures are taken.

John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told a Council meeting that he was saddened and angry to inform them that the situation inside Darfur had only worsened in the past 12 months, despite the efforts of the international community.

“We continue to see the goalposts receding, to the point where peace in Darfur seems further away today than ever,” he said in a statement. “Further progress in the deployment of UNAMID [the hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force], equipped to protect civilians and improve security, will help.

“But only an end to all violence and concrete steps towards a political settlement will make the fundamental difference needed, as the rebel movements themselves above all need to recognize. Otherwise the reality is that the people of Darfur face a continued steady deterioration of their conditions of life and their chances of lasting recovery.”

Mr. Holmes said as many as 300,000 people are now estimated to have died in Darfur since early 2003, when rebels began fighting Government forces and allied militiamen. This figure includes deaths from disease, malnutrition and reduced life expectancy, as well as from direct combat.

Aside from the death toll, more than 2.7 million Darfurians have been displaced by the fighting, the vast majority still living within the arid region on Sudan’s western flank. Around 260,000 refugees have had to flee to the east of neighbouring Chad.

In his briefing to the Council, Rodolphe Adada, the AU-UN Joint Special Representative for Darfur, said it was disturbing that while the region has remained near the top of the international agenda, this attention had not been matched with the necessary action to provide UNAMID with the means to accomplish the tasks assigned to it.

The Council authorized the deployment of UNAMID last year to take over from an under-resourced AU force, and the operation began work at the start of this year. But so far only around 10,000 of the roughly 26,000 uniformed personnel have been deployed.

Speaking to reporters outside the Council, Mr. Adada said that up to 80 per cent of the entire UNAMID force could be deployed by the end of this year if donor countries do more to help out, whether by providing troops or equipment.

He called on the Council to redouble its efforts to assist the mission and he also read out an update on efforts to broker a political settlement by the UN and AU envoys to the peace process, Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim.

Mr. Adada said logistical challenges are one of the biggest problems, with the mission lacking the infrastructure at the moment to house the thousands of staff expected at full deployment.

He said UN and AU officials were working hard to try to accelerate deployment and to make the most of the available resources – including fresh water – in the parched and landlocked region.