Recent Developments in Darfur
In Darfur, people continue to flee their homes in large numbers. Since the signing one year ago of the largely ineffective Darfur Peace Agreement, there have been around 450,000 more civilians displaced – many for the second or third time. 140,000 have fled since the start of 2007. This spring we have seen renewed, intensified aerial bombing campaigns and attacks on civilians.
These new displacements have severely impacted an already strained humanitarian response. Many of the camps around Nyala and El Fasher towns are now operating at or above capacity, yet people continue to arrive. In North Darfur in particular, there is increasing pressure on scarce and depleted natural resources and water shortages have been reported in several camps.
Since the start of 2007, aid agencies’ ability to access people in need has fallen to its lowest level in three years. Targeted attacks on aid workers and operations are increasing and now occurring on a daily basis. During April alone, there were at least 25 incidents of hijackings, attempted hijackings or looting of humanitarian vehicles, in addition to armed robberies of INGO compounds and violent assaults on staff. Three aid workers were shot and wounded, and more than 20 temporarily abducted – one for a period of six days. Many more face regular harassment and intimidation. This trend has continued.
The violence has spread right throughout all three Darfur states. Even the camps where more than 2 million people have sought refuge are increasingly at risk. Armed men routinely enter the camps, to intimidate and harass civilians and to steal humanitarian vehicles and supplies. Agencies frequently have to withdraw from such camps for days or weeks at a time. The prevalence of vehicle hijacking means agencies are now reliant largely on helicopters, with many roads too dangerous to use, leaving whole swathes of rural Darfur - where the needs are often greatest of all - effectively out of bounds to aid agencies.
International aid agencies provide an estimated 80% of all current assistance in Darfur, yet are frequently forced to suspend activities and relocate staff as a result of this violence. Morale among aid workers is low. The quality of assistance has been severely undermined. We also have to contend with bureaucratic requirements (such as customs regulations and visa requirements) that sometimes act as an impediment to aid delivery. The joint communiqué signed between the UN and Government of Sudan on March 28, 2007 has helped somewhat, but greater coordination is needed between the Government agencies so that they are all implementing the communiqué consistently. Sudan remains a very challenging place in which to operate.
The African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) is responsible for protecting civilians, but is itself increasingly under attack. April was the bloodiest month of the conflict so far for the AU, with seven peacekeepers shot dead. While IRC and other aid agencies remain fully committed to assisting the people of Darfur, should the violence and lack of access continue the consequences are likely to be tragic.Learn More
Read Anne Richard's full testimony here [PDF] >