Tuesday, March 24, 2009

UN warns on the growing humanitarian crisis in Darfur

The United Nations is issuing a warning on the growing humanitarian crisis in Darfur. The government of Sudan expelled many aid organizations from the country and prevented them from giving aid to the people of Darfur. On top of that, rebel leaders are refusing are help from the Sudanese government.

From the Guardian, Xan Rice tells us about the warning from the UN.

Some of the most vulnerable people in Darfur face a high risk of "increased morbidity and mortality" since the expulsion of 16 aid agencies three weeks ago, the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator for Sudan warned today.

Ameerah Haq said that while the immediate needs of the 4.7 million people reliant on relief in Darfur were mostly being met through stopgap measures, up to 650,000 people were without access to full healthcare. Feeding programmes for malnourished children and pregnant women also remained disrupted.

Many clinics remain closed, while others are being run by local staff at a basic level. One agency today expressed concern at reports that "non-health professionals" in displaced persons' camps were using the medical equipment it had been forced to leave behind.

Some 13 foreign agencies and three local organisations responsible for at least half the aid provision in Darfur were kicked out on 4 March, minutes after the international criminal court issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir. Humanitarian officials have warned that Sudan's pledge to fill the aid gap is unlikely to succeed while supplies of food, medicine and water are all under threat. Darfur's main rebel group has urged people to reject all government assistance.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is distributing a two-month ration to 1.1 million displaced people who were served by Care, Solidarités, Action Against Hunger and Save the Children, which have all been expelled. But Rachid Jafaar, a WFP official, warned this was "unsustainable", and the organisation could not guarantee that all the people affected, at 140 sites, would receive food.

The situation has been exacerbated by a surge in attacks on aid workers, which has severely restricted the activities of some of the agencies left on the ground. Three foreign Médecins Sans Frontières workers were kidnapped for several days by a militia supportive of Bashir, and a local employee of a Canadian aid agency was shot dead on Monday night.

NGO officials say Sudan's national security service has been overruling the state humanitarian affairs commission on issues of which aid groups are allowed to work, and where. Haq said Bashir's government, which worked with the UN on the needs assessment mission and is supplying services through the health ministry and water department, needed to take urgent action to improve aid provision.

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