UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SUDAN: Violence continues to limit Darfur aid operations
NAIROBI, 8 Feb 2007 (IRIN) - Humanitarian operations in the western Sudanese region of Darfur have resumed in some areas but security concerns are still restricting activities in others, the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said.
Operations had resumed in Khor Abeche in South Darfur and the eastern Jebel Marra in North Darfur, and negotiations are going on with a wing of the Sudan Liberation Army led by Minni Minnawi on improving access to areas controlled by the former rebels in South Darfur.
However, activities had not yet resumed in Gereida, South Darfur, because there were no safety guarantees, UNMIS said on Wednesday. An attack against six humanitarian compounds on 18 December led to the withdrawal of NGO staff and seriously compromised delivery of food, clean water and healthcare to 130,000 displaced people.
The resumption in operations comes amid renewed efforts to revive the Darfur peace process. Speaking in New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said his envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, and the African Union’s (AU) Salim Ahmed Salim, would travel to Khartoum and Darfur for talks with government and rebel representatives.
According to UNMIS, an estimated 30,000-35,000 people have been displaced since December in East Jabal Marra after attacks by government militia. Another 5,000 in Garal Ghanam, North Darfur, have fled into the hills after attacks in January.
There has been no let-up in the violence. On 1 February, for example, an AU police officer was shot dead in Kassab camp, Kutum, in North Darfur, in a carjacking. On Wednesday, four armed gunmen raided an NGO compound in Zamzam town, North Darfur, commandeered a vehicle and drove off.
The UN and aid agencies estimate that more than 250,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Darfur in the past six months, many of them fleeing for the second or third time. Over the same period, 12 relief workers were killed and armed groups launched 30 attacks on NGOs and UN compounds.
Prompted by the volatile situation, 13 aid agencies and the International Organization for Migration had warned on 17 January that repeated military attacks, shifting frontlines and fragmentation of armed groups had compromised safe humanitarian access.
Last week, the UN Acting Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström urged all parties to the Darfur conflict to stop attacks on the 13,000 aid workers across the region. "Every day there are more people who need our help, yet our colleagues are being threatened by all sides," she said in a statement on 2 February.
The Darfur conflict started in 2003, when government forces and allied militias started fighting rebel groups seeking greater autonomy for the region. Aid agencies estimate that 200,000 people have died and at least two million more have been displaced by the violence.
In August 2006, the UN Security Council voted to send blue berets to bolster the AU peacekeeping mission. Sudan, however, rejected a UN presence, saying it would only allow technical support personnel to be deployed to help the African force.
Speaking to reporters in New York on Tuesday, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno said the uncertainty was delaying offers by countries to contribute to the hybrid force.
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