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UN Humanitarian Official Begins Visit To Darfur

Senior UN Humanitarian Official Begins Visit To Darfur

New York, Nov 25 2008 7:10PM

The top United Nations relief official kicked off a six-day visit to the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur today by stopping at a camp sheltering nearly 90,000 people uprooted by conflict, with security issues featuring prominently in his meetings with internally displaced persons (IDPs), authorities and aid workers.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, visited the Kalma camp in Nyala, one of the largest sites for IDPs in South Darfur, where he saw first-hand the work of aid organizations, met with schoolchildren and saw a women’s handicraft project.

He listened to the concerns of the site’s sheikhs, including an August incident where 33 IDPs were killed and 108 others injured after Kalma was surrounded by Government security forces.

Reinforced protection is needed, the sheikhs told Mr. Holmes, but they expressed their appreciation for the work of aid groups and for the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission known as (UNAMID).

The mission’s police are patrolling the camp at all hours which has helped residents to feel safer, Mr. Holmes, who also serves as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said. “But we still need to do more, not least to ensure women can feel safe as they move in and out of the camp.”

Security was also one of the main issues he discussed with UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), who spoke of increasingly frequent carjackings and break-ins, as well as of bureaucratic and other obstacles, particularly in sensitive areas such as protection of civilians.

These issues were also part of talks Mr. Holmes held with the Wali of South Darfur, who offered bolstered cooperation among UN agencies, NGOs and the Government.

Later in the afternoon, the Coordinator visited UNAMID’s headquarters in El Fasher, where he met with Rodolphe Adada, the head of UNAMID and the Joint Special Representative of the UN and the AU in the region, among other senior officials.

Tomorrow, he will travel to West Darfur to assess the humanitarian situation there before moving on to southern Sudan on Thursday.

More than 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Darfur, an impoverished and relatively arid region on Sudan’s western flank, since rebels began fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen in 2003. Another 2.7 million civilians have had to flee their homes.

Mr. Holmes arrived in Sudan after a four-day visit to Chad, where he called for stronger action to restore stability and rein in criminal activity besetting nearly half a million refugees and IDPs in the strife-torn east.

ENDS

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