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Top UN official calls for greater collaboration to deliver aid to Darfur

Top UN official calls for greater collaboration to deliver aid to Darfur

Darfurian refugees in eastern Chad
The United Nations emergency relief chief has urged increased cooperation in responding to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan, as he wrapped up a five-day visit to the vast African country.

As part of his trip, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes assessed conditions for people in the war-ravaged Darfur region on the western flank of Sudan.

In early March, Khartoum kicked out 13 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and revoked the permits of three local groups providing emergency relief assistance in Darfur after the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the region.

“The expulsions by the Government and the manner in which they were carried out created both major new risks for vulnerable populations in Darfur and elsewhere, and a crisis of confidence with the humanitarian community,” said Mr. Holmes, who is also Emergency Relief Coordinator.

He welcomed, however, recent collaboration with the Government on the joint assessment in Darfur, and noted that short-term needs in food, health and nutrition, emergency shelter, water and sanitation were being met.

“As the rainy and lean season approach, we are still grappling with the gaps left in many areas,” added Mr. Holmes. “The critical test will be over the coming months” in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million have been forced from their homes since 2003.

Voicing concern over the world body’s ability to deliver basic longer-term needs, he underscored the importance of the “loosening of bureaucratic impediments currently constraining the humanitarian community” for the UN and others to “fill the gaps.”

Mr. Holmes highlighted the success of the first meeting of an expanded High Level Committee, which aims to monitor and solve humanitarian problems, and monitor the operation of existing agreements. “Agreement was reached on what we hope will be an effective monitoring mechanism at the state, national, and international levels, and a strengthened aid delivery system.”

In his discussions with officials in Khartoum and North Darfur, Mr. Holmes also called attention to the increasingly dangerous conditions for aid workers in Darfur, which has seen a rise in banditry and two particularly worrying kidnappings since the expulsions of NGOs.

The joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, reported that in the last three days the security situation had been relatively tense, with a shooting reported in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur.

UNAMID also reported a number of carjacking incidents in both North and South Darfur, along with a surge of banditry targeting UN personnel in North Darfur, including a spate of burglaries. There were also reports of sporadic armed clashes between government forces and the Central Reserve Force in El Fasher’s main market resulting in two deaths.

Fighting between the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudanese Liberation Army/Minni Minawi wing (SLA/MM) sparked off over the weekend in the North Darfur town of Umm Baru. UNAMID transported 26 people injured in the fighting to El Fasher for medical treatment at the military hospital.

More than one year on from transferring the task of suppressing the violence in Darfur to UNAMID from the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), well over 12,000 of the 19,555 military personnel authorized by the Security Council are now in place across the region.