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Access for Aid Worse in Sudan Despite Accord

Access for Humanitarian Aid Getting Worse in Sudan Despite Accord: UN Officials

New York, Jun 19 2006 6:00PM

Despite last month’s peace deal in Sudan’s Darfur region between the Government and the largest rebel group, access to humanitarian aid for the people displaced by the violence there – estimated at over 2 million – and elsewhere in the impoverished African country has deteriorated in recent months, the top United Nations aid official in Sudan and other UN agency representatives said today.

The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Humanitarian Coordinator Manuel Aranda da Silva also told reporters in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, that the world body had so far received less than half the funding it requires for this year’s humanitarian assistance to the country.

“Access has always been an issue in Sudan, particularly in Darfur over the last two years. In the last three months we have had deterioration in getting access in Darfur. There are at least 250,000 people we cannot reach, they are mainly in western Darfur, but they are also in North Darfur, reasons for the lack of access are mainly due to infighting,” said Mr. da Silva.

“As you know we have an ambitious work plan for this year, $1.7 billon for recovery and development activities of which $1.5 billion is for humanitarian operations. Against that $1.5 billion we have $600 million so far, and totally we have $760 million against humanitarian recovery. That is less than 50 per cent of what we require for this year,” he explained.

Other UN agency representatives raised similar access concerns for humanitarian aid in different parts of the country, in particular Kassala state in the east of Sudan bordering Eritrea and also Red Sea state in the northwest.

“We have seven refugee camps in Kassala state, and we have had problems accessing them in the past...Yesterday our people were prevented from going to Kilo 26 camp to perform regular monitoring activities,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative Kalunga Lutato told reporters.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it had similar access problems, particularly in Kassala state, where it conducts monitoring and distribution.

“The general view is we were able through the monthly plan to have access in the last two or three weeks, but it has been stopped and we cannot move out of Kassala state due to check points…We were able to distribute some commodities recently which should keep things going for some time, but if the access issues continue there will be problems,” said WFP Deputy Director Ebenezer Tagoe.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative in Sudan, Ted Chaiban, also spoke of access problems but despite such difficulties, over the weekend the agency reported some good news with the demobilization of 181 children from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in the south of the country.

In addition to these 181 children – 174 boys and seven girls – formally released through the Southern Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, another 30 children went home earlier by themselves prior to the demobilization as they came from nearby locations, UNICEF said in a news release.

While welcoming the demobilization, the agency warned that a great deal of work remains. “There are still more boys and girls who are associated with armed groups in Southern Kordofan and other areas of Sudan and we hope they too will return home soon,” said Mr. Chaiban.

Apart from the increased political infighting among rebel groups, and banditry of the past three weeks in the Darfur region, Mr. da Silva said there had however been a “clear reduction of clashes” between the Government and the Sudan Liberation Army forces, but he added that there was “tension in the IDP (internally displaced people) camps,” related to the fact that people there do not recognize last month’s peace agreement.

Regarding the broader humanitarian situation throughout Sudan, he noted that the UN had signed basic agreements with the authorities last December on movement and access and said further negotiations would take place with the Government on this topic.

“It is the Government’s responsibility to take care of its own people, but we cannot be held responsible for what happens to people we cannot reach,” Mr. da Silva concluded.

More than 4 million Sudanese were displaced internally by a decades-long war in the south, which is separate from the conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region, where more than 2 million people have been uprooted, including more than 200,000 who have fled to eastern Chad.

There has been increased international diplomatic activity in recent weeks to try and halt the bloodshed in Darfur, including a visit by a Security Council delegation and a mission by a joint UN-African Union team to strengthen the AU monitoring force already there and to prepare for its possible transition to a full-fledged UN peacekeeping operation.

ENDS

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