Sudan UN team arrives in strifetorn Darfur region to prepare aid push

The 13-member UN Rapid Response Team touched down in Nyala, El Geneina and El Fasher, Darfur’s three capitals, to assess humanitarian needs in the area, home to a quarter million internally displaced persons (IDPs). UN agencies are delivering and pre-positioning food and other supplies – including water, medicines, plastic sheeting and an anti-meningitis immunization campaign for 60,000 children – to help those in need. Tom Eric Vraalsen, UN Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs for Sudan, today warned that insecurity on the ground is blocking the delivery of aid. “The parties must immediately cease hostilities, so that IDPs and refugees in Chad can voluntarily and safely return to their homes and start to rebuild a peaceful Darfur,” he said. Since arriving in Sudan on 12 February, Mr. Vraalsen has urged the authorities to keep their promises for unimpeded access to the populations in need. His mission follows up on President Omer Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir’s promise earlier this month to allow aid workers to reach millions of suffering civilians in Darfur region, which covers roughly one-fifth of the territory of Sudan, Africa’s largest country. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), access to most areas outside Darfur’s three capitals is impaired by daily incidents of militarized violence on major roads routes. The prevalence of landmines is also complicating efforts to deliver aid. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland today hailed the pre-positioning and delivery of aid but warned that “we are still not reaching the majority of those in need.” Throughout Darfur, those affected by the conflict include 700,000 IDPs and 110,000 refugees in neighbouring Chad, OCHA said. For months, most have remained beyond the reach of agencies trying to provide essential humanitarian aid. The UN has consistently received reports of systematic raids against civilian populations. Humanitarian workers have also been targeted, with staff being abducted and relief trucks looted. read more