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Cablegate: Msf Evacuates Staff in North Darfur Following Attacks On

VZCZCXRO2787
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1174 2171414
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 041414Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1511
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001174

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL PHUM AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: MSF Evacuates Staff in North Darfur Following Attacks on
Compounds

1. (U) On August 1, the humanitarian organization Mdecins Sans
Frontihres (MSF) announced that it had suspended activities and
evacuated staff from Tawila and Shangil Tobaya in North Darfur,
following violent attacks on MSF compounds. In two separate but
similar attacks, groups of armed men entered MSF compounds at night,
held staff at gunpoint and stole money set aside for salaries as
well as other valuables. It is unclear if or when MSF activities in
Tawila and Shangil Tobaya will resume.

2. (U) As a result of the withdrawal, MSF estimates that tens of
thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs)in North Darfur will
be without medical assistance. In Tawila, MSF was the only medical
organization providing medical care to more than 30,000 IDPS living
in three camps, as well as the local population. In Shangil Tobaya,
MSF provided medical services for 28,000 IDPs in two camps and
another 5,000 people in surrounding villages.

3. (SBU) This is not the first time that MSF has suspended activity
in either Tawila or Shangil Tobaya for security reasons. During the
past year, the team in Tawila was been evacuated twice after being
targeted by assailants on three occasions, according to MSF. In
addition, MSF suspended activities in Shangil Tobaya for several
months in 2007. In a statement, MSF Head of Mission in Darfur Monica
Camacho called the latest suspension "a difficult decision" but
noted that "it is impossible for our teams to work and provide
medical aid without a minimum guarantee of security and respect for
humanitarian work." Despite the localized evacuations, MSF
maintains approximately 1,500 humanitarian staff throughout other
parts of North, South, and West Darfur. Jose Hulsenbek, MSF/Holland
Head of Mission in South Darfur, told aidoff that programs in South
Darfur are continuing under normal operations.

4. (U) In response to MSF's evacuation, on August 1 UN
Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes called upon
armed opposition groups as well as government forces to ensure
security throughout Darfur. He noted that in 2008, 180 humanitarian
vehicles were hijacked, 145 aid workers kidnapped, and nine aid
workers killed. "Impunity for such attacks must end," he said in a
statement.

5. (SBU) Comment: MSF prides itself on being one of the most
expeditionary NGOs providing emergency medical care on the
frontlines of armed conflict. Considering that it still operates in
areas of Afghanistan and Iraq, its pullout signals the extent to
which security has deteriorated in areas of Darfur. Sadly, this
trend shows no sign of being reversed, as attacks on humanitarian
workers continue to be committed in Darfur at an alarming rate.

FERNANDEZ

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