Poor treatment of humanitarian workers in Darfur is "becoming unacceptable": UN official

10:55, August 24, 2010      

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John Holmes, UN under- secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said Monday that humanitarian assistance to camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur cannot be maintained if humanitarian workers continue to be treated badly.

"The level of restrictions imposed on humanitarian operations, and of harassment, threats and violence directed at humanitarian personnel, is once again becoming unacceptable," Holmes said in a statement to the Security Council during a closed session on UN operations in Sudan.

The UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has faced difficulties in recent weeks bringing humanitarian aid to the Kalma IDPs camp near Nyala, South Darfur as well as to those impacted by fighting in Eastern Jebel Marra region.

The obstruction of humanitarian aid in Kalma began because of clashes in the camp between supporters of the Doha peace talks and members of the Abdul-Wahid Mohamed el-Nur faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA), who did not feel that they were appropriately represented in the peace talks.

Since the violence began, the number of IDPs living at Kalma has fallen from 82,000 to between 50,000 and 60,000. According to Holmes many of the IDPs fled to Nyala or further away to escape the violence, in some cases because their shelters had been burned down and humanitarian assistance had been interrupted.

"All concerned need to understand that humanitarian action is carried out by independent and neutral actors to alleviate human suffering, that assistance is provided impartially, based on humanitarian needs alone, and that the humanitarian community in Darfur is committed to holding up these principles in every aspect of its work," he said.

From Aug. 1 until Aug. 16, the UN and other aid groups were not allowed to enter Kalma, preventing the distribution of needed food, water, fuel and medical supplies to those who remained there. On Aug. 17, humanitarian groups were denied access again, but by the next day, access was restored.

Holmes said that the current situation in Kalma is "relatively calm" due to UNAMID's renewed ability to patrol the area.

However, he added that the abductions of relief workers have continued to be a problem. He said that one abducted relief worker is still in captivity in South Darfur, but there has been no effort made to punish the perpetrators of this crime.

"This impunity further contributes to an atmosphere of fear within the humanitarian community and risks crippling the aid effort," Holmes said. "The government of Sudan must take concrete and unambiguous measures to deter, investigate and prosecute those responsible for such actions."

Source: Xinhua


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