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Darfur: UN Troubled By Attacks On Aid Workers

Darfur: top UN relief official 'deeply troubled' by attacks on aid workers

1 August 2008 - The top United Nations relief official today called for full respect for humanitarian principles in the face of continuing attacks on aid workers in Darfur, a troubled region in western Sudan.

"I am deeply troubled about the continuing threats and attacks against humanitarian agencies working in Darfur," John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said in a statement.

"Following two attacks against their teams and premises in just one week, Médecins Sans Frontières has announced it has no choice but to evacuate its team from two locations in North Darfur. The departure of MSF team leaves some 65,000 people without essential medical assistance," he said.

Mr. Holmes, who also serves as the Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that the armed opposition groups in Darfur had a clear obligation to guarantee the personal and physical safety of relief workers and access to vulnerable populations. He added that the Government also had a responsibility to ensure security throughout its territory.

Calling for aid organizations to be allowed to work in peace, he said that so far this year, 180 humanitarian vehicles had been hijacked, 145 aid workers kidnapped and nine killed.

"Impunity for such attacks must end. Hundreds of thousands of people rely on the assistance these aid organizations deliver and we cannot afford to have them absent from Darfur," he stressed.

The region remains beset by violence and instability five years after rebels began fighting Government forces and allied militiamen known as the Janjaweed. More than 300,000 are estimated to have died, either through direct combat, malnutrition or disease, and another 2.7 million others have been displaced from their homes since 2003.

Yesterday, the Security Council adopted a resolution extending by 12 months the mandate of the hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID.

ENDS

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