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Aid agencies in Darfur deplore donor failure

Aid agencies in Darfur deplore donors’ failure to fund the African Union and jeopardising lives as a result

Embargoed until 00:01 GMT Tuesday 18th July 2006

A group of leading aid agencies today combined forces to call for urgent action to end the continued violence and suffering in Darfur.

As a donor’s conference starts in Brussels today, the aid agencies warned that the African Union Force, supposed to be protecting people, was chronically under funded and unable to do its vital job.

At present there are reportedly only enough funds to pay salaries for the operation until the end of July. According to the African Union the African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS) has a shortfall of well over $50million for the April-Sept 2006 period. An additional $270m is now required to fund the mission to the end of December 2006.

This is the first time the eight agencies: CARE International, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief, Oxfam International and Tearfund, have spoken out as a group.

“While an enormous amount of energy is being spent debating what will happen in 6 months time, no one seems to have noticed that people are still being killed today. Many countries have still not given enough money to support the troops already on the ground. This lack of funding means patrols in and around camps are impossible or have been scaled back and we are seeing people attacked, killed or raped as a result,” said Denis Caillaux, Secretary General of CARE International.

Due in part to shortage in manpower and equipment, AMIS 24-hour patrols in the camps do not exist leaving people vulnerable at night, despite some earlier efforts patrols to protect women gathering firewood barely exist, and patrols on road and to villages are sporadic. So far the only donors to offer serious levels of support for the force are Canada, the EU, the UK, the US and the Netherlands.

“This is an international problem, one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world, yet only five donors seem to be properly engaged. All rich countries must step up their support urgently if the disaster of Darfur isn’t to turn into an even worse catastrophe,” said Haroun Atallah, Chief Executive of Islamic Relief.

The eight agencies warned that the security situation on the ground continues to deteriorate despite the recent peace agreement. This peace agreement gave the African Union Force more responsibilities requiring more resources, despite the fact that it was already chronically under funded and failing to protect civilians.

“The African Union force is being set up to fail. It simply cannot be expected to fulfill its mandate without proper support. The current scenario is a recipe for disaster. Donor governments must now put their hands in their pockets and fully fund the African Union force,” said Barbara Stocking, Director of Oxfam Great Britain.

The agencies today call on donor governments to make generous commitments to support AMIS up until the end of December 2006, whether or not there is agreement for a transition to the UN. Civilians should not be used as a bargaining chip.

Funds should cover running costs – in particular food, medical care and salaries of personnel – capacity building, more vehicles and armoured personnel carries. Night vision equipment is particularly needed so that 24-hour patrols seven days a week can commence in the camps.


ENDS

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