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Sudan: Mixed Progress On Humanitarian Access


Sudan: UN Agencies Report Mixed Progress On Enhancing Humanitarian Access

While there has been progress in improving humanitarian access to civilians in the violence-wracked Darfur region of western Sudan, United Nations agencies report that local authorities are still demanding travel permits in some areas.

Concern also persists about security at the dozens of camps in the region for internally displaced people (IDPs) after reports of gang rapes against women there, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

Briefing reporters in New York, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe said the Sudanese Government has lifted visa restrictions and made it easier to transport humanitarian supplies and equipment, as promised under a joint communiqué signed with the UN nine days ago.

But she said local authorities in northern and western Darfur are still requiring aid workers from the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to obtain travel permits for their districts.

Khartoum's 90-day registration plan means many NGOs are also reluctant to increase their asset bases because they are not sure whether their permits will be extended.

Ms. Okabe called for the Sudanese Government to dramatically boost the number of police stationed near IDP camps - where there has been a small increase recently - to prevent rapes and gang rapes of women who venture from the camps in search of firewood.

Despite Khartoum's encouragement, IDPs - who are mainly black Africans - remain reluctant to voluntarily return to their home villages without guaranteed protection from attacks by the largely Arab militia known as the Janjaweed.

UN agencies estimate more than a million people are internally displaced in Darfur because of deadly attacks by the Janjaweed and fighting among the militias, which are allied to the Government, Sudanese forces and two rebel groups. Another 170,000 people have fled to neighbouring Chad as refugees.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who recently visited Darfur, said the situation "bordered on ethnic cleansing" and senior UN officials have described it as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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